By Oliver Bazely, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – With just a few events remaining on the 2010 volleyball circuit, Brazil can begin to reflect on another successful year, before considering the challenges on the horizon. The facts are indisputable. In 2010, the Brazilian men’s team won the World League, the World Championships and came second in the World Grand Prix.
In addition, wing-spiker Murilo was voted as the best player in the world. In the international rankings, they have accumulated 247.5 points. The next closest team are Russia, 62.5 points adrift, on 185 points.
The women’s team are also ranked 1st in the world, are the reigning Olympic champions, came 2nd in the World Grand Prix and are one of the favorites to win the 2010 World Championships, taking place in Japan at the moment.
The current dominance of Brazilian volleyball has many watching to see if they can maintain their winning streak until the all-important 2016 Olympics. As with futbol (soccer), Brazil is talent pool for volleyball, and as the current golden generation testifies, this broad national appeal has supplied the teams with an impressive crop of players.
Structurally, volleyball is very well developed in Brazil, and the Brazilian volleyball federation have managed to establish a domestic premiership, known as the Superliga. The 2010-11 Superliga season begins next week, with 15 teams participating this year.
With seven São Paulo teams, two Santa Catarina teams, three Minas Gerais teams, the competition will also include local Rio team Volta Redonda. Eleven of the players who won the World Championship with Brazil will be playing in the Superliga. In the words of Dr. Graça, head of the Brazilian Volleyball Federation, “We are making a Superliga of international standard that has increasingly more prestige.”
In the qualifying rounds, teams will contest over 200 games in a ‘shift system’. The eight top teams will move into the quarter and semi-finals, which will be played in a series best-of-three games. The final will be take place in April, in the state of Minas Gerais.
The first four rounds of the Superliga will also have to fit round some other competitions, including the Paulista Championship, the South American Club competition and the Open Games of São Paulo state.
On the international circuit this year, Brazil will hope to repeat their success in the World League. They will also contest the World Cup, and will no doubt to aim improve on this year’s second position in the FIVB Grand Prix.
In the longer term, for some of the current stars, 2016 will see them at the twilight of their careers. Legendary outside-hitter Dante is 30, so could be retiring from the squad in the coming years. Current MVP Murilo may also have retired by this date.
There is also debate over the management of the team. The current coach, Bernadinho, is certainly popular, but by 2016, he would have been in charge for 15 years, which is a long stint by any standards. However, for the coming international tournaments, there is no sign of a break in Brazil’s dominance, and now is the time for young players to emerge, ready to fill the shoes of the golden generation.