April 7, 2003 - Brazilian national team coach Bernardo Rezende has labeled the next 12 months a year of survival as his team prepares to launch an assault on the World League, the World Cup and the Olympics.
Brazil are coming off the back of their first ever World Championship title in Argentina at the end of last season and "Bernardinho" is hoping his team takes that form into this year's World League tournament, which starts on May 23.
"We must be better this year than 2002 and first of all, we must get through the world title," Rezende said. "Last year was very important to us but 2003 is a real challenge. It is necessary to be careful and not to create any illusions."
Last year the "Boys from Brazil" went down to Russia in the World League final 3-1 in front of their own fans at home. A result the extrovert and expressive Rezende will do his best to avoid as he prepares his side for an important year stacked with key matches, notably against Italy on May 30 and June 20 in their World League Pool. The 42-year-old is leaving no room for error having already introduced his squad to a rigorous, two-session a day pre-season training schedule.
Although some players are still in Europe playing for their clubs, Rezende has a squad of nine to put through their paces at the moment with the likes of star spiker André Nascimento, Murilo, Escadinha, Rodrigao and Mauricio all joining the training camp over the weekend.
"We are in a pre-Olympic year and we must play the World Cup in Japan. On top of that we have the South American and Pan-American Championships. We want to perform in all these events to the best of our abilities bearing in mind our main objective is the World Cup."
Besides the traditional powerhouses of Russia and Italy, Rezende says Cuba is a team to be weary of this year, especially at the Pan-American Games, which are due to be held in the Dominican Republic during August. "Cuba has a very young generation of players that are growing very quickly. We will have to watch them, and the USA as well. The Americans showed what they can do when they beat us during the World Championship last year."