Brazil women hope after four successive podium finishes their fifth appearance at the FIVB Volleyball World Cup will see the world No. 1 and Olympic champions claim the one elusive crown that escapes them when the competition begins on Friday at Nagano and Hiroshima, Japan.
Having won the Olympic Games for the first time in 2008 and with a Grand Champions Cup title to their name in 2005 in addition to the eight World Grand Prix crowns, a World Championship and World Cup ribbon are the only prizes still left to obtain for the South American queens.
Runners-up in the last two editions of the quadrennial competition that grants the first three tickets to the Olympic Games following bronze in 1999 and another silver in 1995, Brazil have been training on Japanese soil for several days after winning their fourth gold medal in the history of the Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico.
“The team has prepared really well for this competition,” coach Jose Roberto “Ze Roberto” Guimaraes said when he arrived in Kobe for a few days of acclimatisation to the time difference (13 hours ahead of Brazil) at the Hisamtisu Springs Training Center. “We still need to improve some aspects like our serving.”
Guimaraes gives credit to the participation in the Pan American Games as a good warm-up for the World Cup where they will start competing in Nagano against the United States, Kenya and Germany.
“To dispute the Pan American Games was important because we went through difficult moments,” he said. “I don’t know how the other teams are going to be in the World Cup but we want to qualify for the Olympic Games as soon as possible.”
One of those difficult moments was losing key player Jaqueline Carvalho in the first match against the Dominican Republic when the outside-hitter collided with libero Fabi and fractured two cervical vertebras that will keep her out of action for at least two months. Another one was overcoming a resilient young Cuba team in five sets during the gold medal match to win the title for the first time since 1999 at Winnipeg, Canada.
Finding an effective replacement for Jacqueline is one of the main tasks for the experienced Guimaraes as the 12-team competition is now just around the corner. He already discovered Fernanda Rodrigues Garay who helped win the opening match in Guadalajara as the gritty player came off the bench to score a match-high 20 points.
“Fernanda was prepared to play and she has trained very well,” Guimaraes stated afterwards. “She is a good choice for the future.”
Guimaraes also got a productive last point against Cuba from rookie Tandara Caixeta, an opposite who the coach considers as a player with great potential who’s not affected by the pressure situations.
“She has a great potential for attack and block and also serves very well,” he says. “And she has done well when she has received the chance to play in the most complicated moments of the games.”
Despite winning the gold medal at the Pan Am Games with a team he considered the best of Brazil at the moment of that competition, Guimaraes has added three other players for the World Cup who were not in the squad that took part in Guadalajara.
They are veteran Welissa “Sassa” Gonzaga, middle blocker Adenizia Silva and libero Camila Brait who the coach rates as very important for the team.
According to Ze Roberto, Sassa brings experience for key moments, Adenizia provides her natural instinct to read the opposition, and Camila is considered the libero of the future.
Other players in the team include Fabiana Claudino, Mariana Steinbrecher, Sheila Castro, Paula Pequeno, Thaisa Menezes, Dani Lins, Fabiola Souza and Juciely Barreto.
Brazil have featured in eight of the previous 10 editions of the FIVB World Cup.
photos Janos Schmidt