Now that the dust of celebration has settled, it is time for an honest analysis of Brazil’s win at Nanjing, China. Of Brazil’s 12th World Grand Prix titles, this might have been the most difficult and the most improbable.
After oscillating performances, like the one that handed Brazil its first loss to Thailand in its volleyball history, the often apathetic Brazilian squad started to gain momentum late in the tournament for a push at the title. Captained, and often solely dependent on, by the tournament’s MVP, Fenerbahçe’s star opposite hitter Natalia, Brazil beat the Italian squad in the finals in a five-set war.
The less glamorous side of that story is that the Brazilian squad only clinched its spot at the tournament’s Final Four at the very last-minute, when China beat the Dutch team 3-2, after being behind 14-10 at the fourth set and having saved six match points.
After an early elimination at the Rio 2016 Olympics, where the Brazilian team was heavily favored to win the gold medal at its home soil, José Roberto Guimarães started to put forth his roster renewal plans. Of the original 22-player roster, only three players had previous Olympic experience: Natália, Tandara and Adenizia. That is not to say, though, that the team was inexperienced: the Brazilian squad was actually the one with the highest average age at Nanjing, most of its players having enjoyed long club careers in domestic leagues all over the world.
Ditto, retirements from the national team, injuries, pregnancies and sabbatical years all contributed to actual state of the team’s roster. Some experts would say that José Guimarães only had at his disposal the equivalent of a third string squad. Regardless of the merits of these statements, the truth is that the actual fans are not yet accustomed to not seeing Sheilla, Fabiana, Fabizinha, Mari, and Paula Pequeno, all active players at their clubs, not playing for the national team.
Always regarded as Brazil’s second sport, after soccer, Brazilian volleyball is starting to show signs of weariness. Having lost most of its attention drawing players, the Brazilian female squad misses the presence of a familiar face that can connect with the casual public, polishing the team’s identity. Add to that the myriad of corruption scandals that the national governing body for volleyball is being investigated for, the progressive worsening of Superliga, with most superstar players leaving for Europe, and you have the beginning of a problem.
This title comes at a perfect timing, breathing fresh air at the country’s fanatic fan base, allowing them to get to know these new candidates to the title of heirs to the country’s glorious volleyball history. We wonder if it will be enough, though, to gather the general public’s interest for the forthcoming matches and tournaments.