2001 winners Cuba
Nagano, Japan (November 21, 2005): Fresh from the success of the women's team in the World Grand Champions Cup at Nagoya on Sunday, Brazil's men will try and repeat the feat when the second half of the FIVB's quadrennial inter-continental championship starts Tuesday in Nagano.
Under head coach Bernardo Rezende, Brazil will be looking to maintain a proud tradition in this event, as they have never finished out of the top two in the three previous editions.
They finished runners-up to Italy in the inaugural World Grand Champions Cup in 1993, won the gold medal in 1997 and were second again in 2001 to Cuba, who missed out to the USA in qualifying for this year's edition.
At a press conference in Nagano on Monday evening, Rezende said Brazil's run of success had been a long time in the planning.
"I think consistency within our federation since the 1980s has been the main characteristic," he told reporters.
"They have been working very professionally for our coaches, and the movement has grown so much that we have so many players for the men's and women's teams."
The women's team have won the World Grand Prix and the World Grand Champions Cup, both in Japan, this year, and the men already have the World League title under their belts. So Brazil will be hoping to end the year with a Grand Slam at senior level.
Rezende warned, however, that having lots of good players did not guarantee continued success.
"It has been a long process built in the Eighties, and we have had a lot of people pulling together. Our goal is to be among the best teams, but it is not so easy and we must keep working hard," he said.
Brazil, the South American champions, will start their campaign against Norceca champions USA in the first match of the 15-game schedule, and this will be followed by Italy (European champions) against China (wild card), and Egypt (African champions) against Japan (Asian champions).
China's head coach, Di Anhe, said he felt very lucky to be among such distinguished company.
"It is a great opportunity for us to take part in this event," Di said.
"I appreciate the other teams are stronger than us, so we will be able to learn a lot."
Egypt, ranked 21st in the world, will be Africa's first representative in the World Grand Champions Cup. Their head coach, Ahmed Zakaria, described himself as "very happy" to be present. And his target?
"We hope to play a good match with all five teams," he said.
Italy, the champions in 1993 but competing for the first time since then in the inter-continental championship, have not had enough time to prepare due to their national championship, according to head coach Gianpaolo Montali.
"We are here to do our best. We will see," said Montali.
Japan will be missing Marcos Sugiyama due to a knee injury, but first-year head coach Tatsuya Ueta feels his team is growing -- and has Japan's first Asian Championship gold medal since 1995 to prove it.
"Japan won the gold medal at the Munich Olympics in 1972, but the team has declined slowly over many years," he pointed out.
"Fortunately in September we became Asian champions for the first time in 10 years, and it is necessary to jump up to the top level so we can do better at the Olympic Games. These games against such strong teams will be very important for us.
"I will do my best so that Japan can become a very good team again in the world."
The United States, under head coach Hugh McCutcheon, will be competing in this event for the first time since 1993, when they finished fifth.
"As with the other teams we would like to have had our preparation better, and we will see what happens," said the New Zealander.
The first two rounds of games will be held Tuesday and Wednesday at Nagano Arena, known as the White Ring and which staged the figure skating competition at the 1998 Winter Olympic Games, before the action resumes Friday at Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium.