September 29, 2012, Langley, BC – Think of Brazilian volleyball like Canadian hockey. Winning is the only acceptable result. No matter the tournament, the age of the athletes or the level competition, when Brazil hits the court, like when the maple leaf steps on the ice, it’s all about the top prize.
“Team Brazil always looks for winning,” said Brazilian U21 captain Thiago Veloso after his team beat Argentina Thursday to move to 2-0 at this week’s U23 Pan American Men’s Volleyball Cup in Langley. “The expectation for us is to always to win the tournament.”
And playing at the Langley Events Centre this week is no different.
While ultimately this tournament is more of a preparatory event for the South American Men’s Junior Continental Championships, which run Oct. 18-26 in Cali, Colombia, there’s no doubt this event is still of great importance to this Brazilian side.
As the team looks forward to its continental championship in less than a month – a tournament Brazil will be looking to win for the second straight time after capturing gold in 2010 – this week is their last warm-up event and certainly a critical stage in their overall goal of qualifying for, and of course winning, the 2013 FIVB World Junior Championship, which will be played in Turkey next August.
Having finished a disappointing fifth on home soil at the last World Junior Championship in 2011, there is certainly a palpable sense that this Brazilian team – one that will likely be largely unchanged from now until next year’s World Championship – is on a mission. And fans at the Langley Events Centre this week are seeing that mission, which began when the team was officially selected this past June, on display in earnest.
“For us it’s a great opportunity to play against some other players,” said Brazil coach Leonardo Carvalho. “This is a U23 tournament and our team is U21. The important point is to try to give more international experience to these young players. We had good performances in the first two matches but in this kind of tournament you must play every day. The most important match is not the final. The most important match is the match of the day.
“We are trying to organize our minds to play better in each day against our next opponent. If we can do a better job each day we’ll have a good opportunity to be in the finals.”
So far, Brazil has looked every bit the team to beat in Langley.
Through two games, the Brazilians have yet to drop a set in earning wins over the Dominican Republic and their South American rival and fellow U21 side, Argentina.
“Through these first two matches, we focused on improving and developing our service, blocking and defence,” Veloso said.
With Alan Souza and Henrique Batagim leading the attack with 27 and 26 kills respectively over the first two games and Veloso contributing 33 running sets, Brazil has been far and away the most dominant team through the first three days of the tournament.
And, frankly, that’s their expectation.
For a team that has, for the most part, been together since 2010 and one that has nine players who helped Brazil to a gold medal at the 2011 U19 Pan American Cup, this week’s tournament is all part of a lengthy, and expectation-laden, process that the Brazilians hope will culminate at next year’s U21 World Championship.
And while for Carvalho the U23 event is largely a developmental opportunity and he readily admits that “the bigger thing is to win in October,” that doesn’t mean come Sunday, every Brazilian fan tuning in won’t be expecting anything but victory.
They may be working towards something bigger but that’s just the thing about the Brazilians and their volleyball.
They don’t settle for second.
Brazil is back on the court Friday when it will take on Canada at 8 p.m.
All matches for the event are being streamed live and are available on a pay per view basis through the following link: http://www.langleyeventscentre.com/u23volleyballcup
To buy tickets for the U-23 Pan American Volleyball Cup, go to www.langleyeventscentre.com or go to the TWU Bookstore on the Trinity Western University campus.