Defending champions the United States were knocked out in the quarter-finals of the men's Olympic volleyball tournament by an inspired Italy at Earls Court today.

After winning a tense opening set 28-26, the Italians took control to claim a surprise 3-0 victory and set up a semi-final with Brazil, who beat Argentina earlier.

The Americans had no answer to the net play of Michal Lasko and Cristian Savani, both of whom racked up the points for Italy.

Earlier, passions ran high as the latest chapter of one of the world's great sporting rivalries saw Brazil overwhelm Argentina 3-0 to reach the semi-finals.

Brazilians vastly outnumbered their Argentine counterparts inside the cavernous arena that, for an hour or so, could have been in Rio de Janeiro.

And Poland were beaten at their own game at Earls Court tonight as Russia demolished them in straight sets to reach the semi-finals.

The clash between Poland and Russia, two fierce European rivals was eagerly anticipated, largely because of the hungry and raw way in which Poland have approached the tournament.

Prior to tonight they have attacked teams from the off and hammered them off the court, usually backed by their raucous legion of fans in an atmosphere more akin to Warsaw than west London.

But when they have not got it right - like against Australia and Italy in the group stages - they have been terrible and so it proved tonight as Russia did to them what they like to do to others.

Their serving was crisp, their reception accurate, their sitting quick and their hitting unstoppable. It was rare for a point to last longer than four strokes all night and fortunately for Russia, they were usually the ones playing the final shot.

They were able to stifle the two-pronged Polish attack of Zbigniew Bartman and Bartosz Kurek well enough so that they returned just 22 points between them and the frustration began to show for the pre-tournament favourites.

The serving of Russia was also superior as they won seven points with unreturned deliveries compared to one from Poland. Maxim Mikhaylov was their top-scoring player with 13 - one less than Bartman although it did not matter as he enjoyed far better support from his team-mates.

Three-time gold medal winners Russia will now meet another European side in the semi-final, with Bulgaria and Germany set to face-off in the day's final game.