By Robbie Blakeley, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The Brazilian female volleyball team overcame Japan 3-0 in Tokyo this past weekend to claim their tenth Grand Prix title. The Seleção finished the tournament with just one defeat in fourteen matches and have now set their sights on the world tournament in Italy next month.
The numbers from their success are indeed impressive. Across those fourteen games they lost just six sets and won 41, cementing themselves as the team to beat in female volleyball at present.
Their comprehensive 3-0 win over Japan last Sunday (August 24th) was close to perfect. Not even playing the hosts could hinder their dominant performance as they won their second successive Grand Prix crown.
In a show of complete control Brazil won the three sets 25-15, 25-18 and 27-25 in less than ninety minutes. It was also the first time Japan have lost a final at the Grand Prix.
Their sole defeat to Turkey – by a narrow scoreline of 3-2 – appeared to spur the Brazilians on. Following that loss, Brazil won their next four matches, against China, Belgium, Russia and Japan all by a scoreline of 3-0, underlying their superiority at the crucial stage of the competition. “Our group deserves congratulations, especially for the return to the top of the final phase. We didn’t start the final stage well, but we managed to recover, and we lifted the title,” said Sheilla, who scored sixteen points in the final.
“If you analyze the entire Grand Prix, it is clear that our team played well. We lost only one match in fourteen games. Excluding the match against Turkey, we were a consistent and tactically disciplined team. The group deserved the victory and this title,” added central player Fabiana.
Three Brazilian players, from seven selected, were included amongst the best of the competition; Dani Lins, Fabiana and Sheilla. “The individual prize was nice, but I didn’t win it alone,” said Dani Lins. “Each player on the team participated. I am very happy with the way in which we played,” she continued.
Alongside the Brazilians were Liu Xiaotong of Chine, Russian Irina Fetisova and the Japanese pair of Miyu Nagaoka and Yuko Sano. Sano was also awarded the prize for best player of the tournament.
Already the most successful country in the history of the tournament, Brazil increased their advantage over the second most successful nation. The USA team are behind Brazil, with five titles.
The Americans were defeated twice by Brazil this time around – 3-0 and 3-2 – and did not manage to qualify for the final stage. Now, Brazil are turning their attention to the World Championship, which gets underway in Italy on September 23rd, a title Brazil are yet to win. “Everybody played well. We are now in good rhythm for the World Championship and we are going to arrive there more confident,” said Dani Lins.
The Grand Prix also marked the return of key player Jacqueline, who missed last year’s victory due to the birth of her son. Now, following such an emphatic showing in Japan, she should be ready to compete for the biggest title of all next month in Italy, as the Brazilians go in search of a first ever World Championship trophy.