Argentina and France completed the semifinal cast of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 with their five-set victories in the quarterfinals on Tuesday night at the Ariake Arena. The two countries will meet in one semifinal on Thursday, with Brazil taking on ROC in the other.

In what was the third quarterfinal of the day, Argentina prevailed 3-2 (21-25, 25-23, 25-22, 14-25, 15-12) against Rio 2016 silver medallists Italy to make a return to an Olympic final four after 21 years. The nation made their last semifinal appearance at Sydney 2000 - the South American team won their only Olympic bronze medal at Seoul 1988.

Facundo Conte led his team’s scoring with 19 points, then Ezequiel Palacios and Bruno Lima chipped in 18 and 14 points in the win. Osmany Juantorena and Alessandro Michieletto of Italy outscored their rivals with 22 and 21, respectively.

Three Italian players including captain Ivan Zaytsev, Gianluca Galassi and Juantorena scored five points each and provided the firepower to move forward with the first set-win.

Argentina responded with Ezequiel Palacios as he scored eight of his 12 points to level the match at 1-1. The South Americans extended their momentum into the next set, with Conte and Sebastian Sole’s solid scoring contribution.

Italy came back in the fourth set, taking a 7-3 lead that eventually extended to an 11-point advantage and 25-14 to force a tiebreaker.

Italy carried the momentum from the previous set to build a lead in the final set, but things took a sudden turn when Argentina implemented excellent defence and countered with powerful attacks.

The Italians last held their lead at 10-9 when Bruno Lima scored three straight points from the service and attack lines shifted the lead to Argentina at 12-10. Then Facundo Conte’s two backrow swings sealed the Argentine victory at 15-12.

“I didn’t have a good match today, but I am happy after giving my all in those final moments in the final set. I played good in block and defence, and that allowed us to have a good counter-attack,” Bruno Lima said.

In the last quarterfinal match of the day, Jean Patry top scored for France with 21 points from 19 of 34 attacks and two blocks to help his team reach their first ever Olympic semifinal with a 3-2 (21-25, 25-22, 21-25, 25-21, 15-9) win over world champions Poland.

“I am very happy because we played a good game and found good spirit on the court when it was needed. I think that was key to our win. I am ecstatic right now because it’s already incredible to be in the quarterfinal but moving into the final four is something even better. I feel great and I am ready to play again,” Patry said.

Poland struck first in the match with a 25-21 set win, showcasing their strong offence led by their scoring duo – Bartosz Kurek and Wilfredo Leon – who also closed the set with their attacks.

The two sides alternated wins over the next three sets, with France winning the second and fourth in convincing style, with excellent setting from Antoine Brizard to Patry and other hitters Earvin Ngapeth and Trevor Clevenot, who made 17 and 16 points in the match.

In the final set, France started aggressively and built a comfortable lead. The Frenchmen played a better counter-attack game, while Poland could not get anything going on their end because of their service errors. Nicolas Le Goff’s spike sealed the win for France.

“It was tough to set up the plays with those strong serves of Poland. We needed to keep our edge and we did well on that part. I was not in my element today, so I just had to trust my gut. But overall, we had good trust inside the team and the morale was high. Everyone played great and pushed hard for success,” Brizard said.