July 22, 2003 - World Champions Brazil, the current Goliath of men’s volleyball after its victory in the 2003 World League earlier this month, comes to Santo Domingo for the Pan American Games as absolute Volleyball medal favorites and ready to put on a show that the fans will long remember.
The Brazilians make the trip with the same core squad that gave them the titles in Argentina and Spain and ready to deliver what promises to be an extravaganza second only to the world famous carnival in Rio de Janeiro.
In fact, Brazil, light of touch and a joy to see on the court, are currently so far ahead of the pack that the main debate rests not on whether they will take home the gold, but who might take the minor medals.
Brazil is not only talented and tactically superior, but for Volleyball fans all over the world their lineup are household names. Indeed, it doesn’t get much better when you have Nalbert Bitencourt, Andre Nascimento, Sergio Santos, Giovanne Gavio, Gilberto ‘Giba’ Godoy, Anderson Rodrigues and Ricardo Garcia on your team, because individually they are among the brightest; as a bundle, urged on by their extrovert coach Bernardinho Resende, they are simply the best.
Santo Domingo can sit back and get ready for action, because Brazil will surely treat the aficionados to the potent mix of creativity and power that makes the modern game one of the most exciting sports.
Cat-agile Santos has been the best digger in the World League for the past two years, Garcia was the number two setter in the 2003 edition, charismatic Giba, with his flying hair and boyish smile has turned his powerful right arm into a deadly accurate weapon, Captain Nalbert and Gavio are two of the best all-around players on the planet and the combo attack of Nascimento and Rodrigues is as fierce as the jaguars in the Amazon jungle.
Dante Amaral, Gustavo Endres, Mauricio Lima and Rodrigo Santana, all with outstanding individual skills, complete the Brazilian lineup. Brazil plays in Pool B with Cuba, Puerto Rico and Canada. Pool A is composed by USA, Venezuela, Barbados and Dominican Republic.
Cuba and Venezuela come to the tournament with youthful sides that have turned on impressive performances in the World League but whether youthful exuberance is enough to conquer Goliath remains to be seen.
The Cubans, with the help of stars Tomas Aldazabal and Yosleider Cala and the supporting cast of captain Pavel Pimienta Allen and Osmany Juantorena, claimed two pool victories over Bulgaria and one against Poland in the just completed World League.
The Venezuelan duo of Ernardo “Harry” Gomez and Tomas Ereu, mixes a powerful attack with a lethal serve that combine to create one of the best partnerships in today’s game. Venezuela grabbed two victories over Spain and one over Poland in the World League.
The USA is another medal hopeful and their teams always represent a danger in major international competitions because of their great fighting spirit and their ability to rise to the occasion. Since suffering a season-opening loss to Korea on June 15, Team USA has now won seven straight matches including a three game sweep of Canada last week on Canadian soil.
Their squad has two experienced Olympians in Libero Erik Sullivan and big Tom Hoff, complemented by spiker Riley Salmon and setter Donald Suxho on a team with five players taller than the magic 200 cm. Adam Naeve at 208 cm takes the absolute bird’s eye view.
Canada, Puerto Rico, Barbados and the Dominican Republic lack the experience and quality to match the top four and will probably have to be content to finish on the bottom half of the table.
What is already decided is that in the Dominican Republic thousands of fans are in for a treat and will witness Volleyball at its best in a brand new venue located in the centre of the capital, Santo Domingo.