Coach Vercesi guides Croatia's ladies to the World Championship
Lausanne, Switzerland, January 14, 2014 - Angelo Vercesi started his new job as coach of the Croatian women’s national volleyball team on December 27, just one week before the qualifying tournament for the FIVB World Championship got underway in the coastal city of Rovinj.
The Brazilian not only accomplished his mission to qualify the team for the World Championships that will take place from September 23 to October 12 in Italy this year, but made quite a statement in the process as Croatia beat the Netherlands 3-2 in the final match.
The Dutch eventually qualified for the FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship Italy 2014 as one of the top second-placed teams, defeating Hungary (3-0) and France (3-1) en route to qualifying.
“It is just fantastic! We scored a big victory in front of our fans and we qualified for the World Championship! I knew I had made the right decision when I accepted the proposal to coach the Croatian national team,” said an enthusiastic Angelo Vercesi.
While Vercesi can usually be found coaching a club in Baku, Azerbaijan the Croatian Volleyball Federation was able to tempt him into taking on a lucrative second job. “My expectations and hopes are fulfilled. This is one of the biggest successes for Croatian volleyball and a sign that Angelo Vercesi was the right choice,” said President of the Croatian Volleyball Federation, Zdeslav Barac.
Within a short space of time, Vercesi had forged the multitude of Croatia’s stars into a slick team. All 12 members of the Croatian team, which includes stars like setter Ana Grbac, Sanja Popovic and Mia Jerkov, play volleyball abroad (three in Turkey and Italy, two in Russia, one in Azerbaijan, France, Germany and Switzerland).
Croatia has always had a wealth of outstanding individuals, but has rarely been able to mould them into an effective team in recent years. Their greatest successes all came several years ago when the Croatian ladies finished runners-up at the European Championship on three occasions between 1995 and 1999.
In 1998, the Croatians finished an impressive sixth on
their World Championship debut. But it was only in 2010 that they qualified for
the Championship for a second time, ending the tournament in 17th place. It marked the start of a steady upward trend.
In July 2013, a rejuvenated Croatian team won the bronze medal at the Mediterranean Games in Turkey. And only four months before the qualifier in Rovinj, the Croatian women's team scored another big success by finishing in fifth place at the 2013 CEV European Championship in Germany and Switzerland with coach Igor Lovrinov. The pinnacle of their success so far is qualifying for the FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship Italy 2014.
It was a night to remember when the small Croatian seaside town of Rovinj hosted the qualifying tournament for this year’s World Championship. The all-important match against the Netherlands was a sell-out, with 1,500 spectators in the hall. A few hundred fans had to be turned away because all the seats and standing room were taken. Three of the four national TV stations broadcast the decisive match, while all the major daily newspapers sent their journalists and photographers to report on the big event. As such, there was a tangible feeling of delight throughout the ball sport-loving country in the week following qualification.
“Of course, I knew that our policy of hosting as many qualifying tournaments as possible would produce results. It is now our job to ensure that we provide the best possible conditions to prepare the national team for the World Championship,” said Barac, President of the Croatian Volleyball Federation.
As the team prepares for the highlight tournament of the season, Croatia will make its debut at the 2014 FIVB World Grand Prix, which will see a record 28 teams go head-to-head.
Potential opponents in the preliminary round are Kenya, Algeria, Kazakhstan, the Czech Republic, Mexico, Bulgaria and Australia. The Final Four tournament for these groups will feature the lowest-ranked teams in the world rankings and will be held in Bulgaria from August 15 to 17.
Croatia must work its way up through the rankings. And in Vercesi, they have a man on board who knows how to achieve success.
He served his apprenticeship under no lesser coach than Ze Roberto, who has transformed the Brazilian women’s national team into the world’s dominant volleyball powerhouse. Vercesi spent two years as Ze Roberto’s assistant before heading to Italy, where he took his team to the title in the Italian professional league and was named the best coach in Serie A1. After a spell as the coach of Croatian club Split, his most recent coaching job was in Azerbaijan. Vercesi is now also the coach of the Croatian national team, and has ambitious goals.
“We have had only six training sessions together, but I like what I saw. Nevertheless, I believe that we can play even better, even quicker. Next summer we will have more than two months of preparation, that's enough for many improvements and to make progress,” said the new coach, making his intentions clear to the rest of the volleyball world. “If you ask me why I came to Croatia, my answer is definitely not the money. I am here to win gold at the 2016 Olympics in Rio. We are working hard for every victory, and are working hard to be the best!”