Brazil men blend old and new as World League beckons
The side are currently in training at Brazil's Volleyball Development Centre in Saquarema. Key players have been enjoying success for their club sides: Bruno Rezende, Lucas Saatkamp, Thiago Alves, Dante Amaral and Mario Junior are all members of current Brazilian Super League champions side RJX, while hotly-tipped 21-year-old Lucarelli plays for the rival Vivo/Minas team. Leandro Vissotto, meanwhile, played his club volleyball in Russia this season for Ural Ufa.
Setter Bruno Rezende has won a World Championship and an Olympic silver medal aged just 26, after six years in the side. With Giba, Serginho, Rodrigão and Ricardinho all recently retiring, Bruno is now stepping into a leadership role in the yellow and green. He’s looking forward to a new generation of youngsters breaking into the squad.
"Once again the Brazilian team will have a very close group, but one which will always be changing,” he says. “Many parts of the team are high quality and this will be our strength. Lucarelli is one example of this. Despite his young age, he already has a good experience. He is a kid with incredible potential. And then there’s Dante, who has an excellent track record.”
Another player bearing greater responsibility than ever is 27 year-old middle blocker Lucas Saatkamp. "We're a really mixed group but we all have very high standards, which is encouraging,” he says. “We are pushing each other forward and there is no rest. The new players are giving the maximum, and that pulls forward the players who were already here.”
Saatkamp is looking to move into a more influential role, as a senior member of the side. “I'm not accustomed to a leadership role, but I'll have to change that,” he says. “I still have a lot to learn, and I believe that I will grow daily along with the young players.”
A number of others who have been part of Brazil’s selection in the past – but didn’t make it to London 2012 – are also hoping to have a say. "We’re here to demonstrate a commitment to train, and I believe we’ll have the opportunity to play,” says one such player, Eder Carbonera. “We are training hard to maintain the level that the Brazilian team has achieved in recent years. We need to be willing and prepared for any occasion.”
Despite their ranking however, things are not perfect for Brazil at the moment. One of their star men, Murilo Endres, is missing from the side following shoulder surgery, and at last year's World League, the nine-time champions recorded their worst ever result in the tournament: sixth.
With places in the squad clearly still available, Brazil enter a key sequence of World League games. After Poland, Brazil travel to Argentina for their second round of matches. Following that, they will play their third round of fixtures at home in Sao Paulo, Brasilia and Rio de Janeiro.