Before Sapporo, Brazil knew they would face tough opposition
from China, a team that had won all 13 of their matches in the
tournament leading up to the Finals. But once the South Americans
reached the court they flexed their muscles and showed their class,
winning their ninth World Grand Prix title with a 3-0 (25-15, 25-14,
25-20) victory over their Asian counterparts.
While their win put paid to their three successive losses to USA in
the previous three Finals, coach José ‘Zé Roberto’ Guimaraes was
already looking forward to a far greater prize three years away.
“The 2016 Olympic Games in Rio mean a lot for the team, not
only because we’re the home team, but also because the Brazilian
people expect victory,” he said. “So the pressure of these expecta-
tions to win is another thing we have to prepare for.”
Their shock defeat against Bulgaria in the preliminary round served
as a wake-up call for the Olympic champions, but Brazil once again
showed their unique ability to learn quickly and strike new paths.
Ahead of the Finals in Sapporo, their coach arranged a friendly
match against a men’s team from Nagoya, just to see how his play-
ers fared against a completely different style of play. This uncon-
ventional preparation paid dividends allowing the Brazilians to cope
better than any other team against their five opponents’ styles.
“We were really tested in a lot of the matches and had to step our
game up,” Zé Roberto said. “When we played against the United
States we were trying to learn everything about the USA team. So
it’s normal that we had to wait two or three years before winning
The tournament’s Most Valuable Player, Thaisa Menezes also found
it difficult to stop her thoughts drifting towards a home Olympics
in 2016. “Because of some new players in the team there were
some parts of our game that we didn’t execute so well, but it was
nice for the team to start with this triumph,” she said. “I expect
the team will get better and better. We know we have a lot to
What exactly the Brazil team can improve is hard to assess from the
sidelines, especially since only Italy and Serbia came close to win-
ning a set against them in the Finals.
“All the other teams will improve in the lead-up to the Rio Olym-
pics, so we don’t want to be left behind. In terms of speed and
defence, we want to catch up with other teams,” Zé Roberto said.
China established themselves as the team most likely to challenge
Brazil’s hegemony as they recovered from their quarterfinal exit at the
2012 Olympic Games in London to win silver in Sapporo.
China have quickly rediscovered their form and confidence under the
guidance of ‘Jenny’ Lang Ping, who is no stranger to success having
led the US women’s team to silver at the 2008 Olympic Games in
“We did what we could,” she said. “I think our team did a good
job. We learned so much and could also see how talented our young
players are. We know what we want to work on in the future. There
are lots of areas we should improve.”
Four of China’s senior players – Wei Qiuyue, Ma Yunwen, Chu Jinling
and Mi Yang – were not in the squad. But with a host of players
coming through from the FIVB U18 and U20 World Championships
winning teams, the future appears bright for China. However, they
are aware that Brazil remain the team to beat, with Shen Jingsi ad-
mitting, “We know we can still learn a lot from Brazil.”