Brazil out to make history at Women's World Grand Champions Cup
Held every four years, it remains to be seen if a new winner will emerge from the FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Grand Champions Cup – as has been the case with each of the past five editions – or if this year will result in a second victory for Brazil or Russia.
The favourites going into this year’s tournament are current Olympic champions Brazil, who won the tournament in 2005. Having taken gold at the 2012 London Olympics, the South Americans were also the dominant force in this year’s World Grand Prix. With five wins in 15 straight sets, the Finals in Sapporo, Japan was a show of strength from Brazil’s volleyball wizards. Ze Roberto’s team, ranked No. 1 in the world, returns to the country looking to claim one more title this year. It has been a successful few months for the Brazil team, who also clinched their 18th South American Championship title, when they beat Venezuela in straight sets 3-0 in September.
Brazil had a disappointing finish to the FIVB World Grand Champions Cup four years ago when they had to settle for second place behind Italy. With that win, Italy became the fifth title holder after Cuba (1993), Russia (1997), China (2001) and Brazil (2005).
However, Italy did not qualify for the sixth edition of the tournament, which is traditionally held in the year after the Olympic Games. Instead, it was Russia who comfortably secured the World Grand Champions Cup ticket, when they took the top spot at the European Championships in September. Russia, the 2006 and 2010 world champions, have rediscovered their strength with one year to go until next year’s World Championships.
The Russian team, led by coach Iury Marichev for the first time this season, narrowly missed out on a spot in this year’s World Grand Prix Finals, but regrouped and refocused in time to take the European Championship title.
In their first year without Ekaterina Gamova, Russia could prove to be Brazil’s fiercest rivals at the World Grand Champions Cup. After all, they still have a score to settle after the Olympic quarterfinal in London, when Russia, who had until that point been outstanding, lost to Brazil
after having six match points. Brazil then went on to win gold.
The US team, coached by Karch Kiraly – himself a volleyball and beach volleyball Olympic champion – since the end of 2012, have yet to win the World Grand Champions Cup.
They will be looking to reverse their fortunes after losing the 2012 Olympic final to Brazil and a sixth place finish in this year’s World Grand Prix Finals.
The US earned their place in this year’s World Grand Champions Cup by winning the NORCECA Women’s Continental Championship, when they defeated the Dominican Republic 3-1 in the final.
However, the Dominican Republic re-join the line-up of teams taking part in the World Grand Champions Cup as the wild card selection made by the FIVB, the Japanese Volleyball Association (JVA) and the Nippon Television Network Corporation (NTV).
They will be joined by Thailand, who won their ticket to the World Grand Champions Cup with a stunning 3-0 win over world No. 3 and London Olympics bronze medallists Japan at the Asian Championship in September. The big question ahead of the tournament is what the hosts of the World Grand Champions Cup are capable of accomplishing this time around. The event has always been held in Japan, yet the hosts have never done better than third place (2001).
Will captain Saori Kimura’s team pull off a win this time?
One thing is for sure, volleyball fans are guaranteed their fair share of action when the six teams take to the court to play for the coveted World Grand Champions Cup title this year.
The FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Grand Champions Cup follows the women's edition from November 19 to 24.