Brazil’s men’s volleyball team will fight for its fourth Olympic title at the Paris Games in 2024, pressured by recent results and the weight of the golden legacy left by past generations.
The now former national team coach Renan Dal Zotto cited health reasons when announcing his departure from command of the team shortly after the hard-fought Olympic qualification, on Sunday (8).
In the decisive game that guaranteed Brazil’s place in the 2024 Olympics and during the pre-Olympic campaign, boos against Dal Zotto could be heard from the stands of Maracanãzinho. On social media, fans made a series of publications asking for the coach’s departure, with the hashtag #ForaRenan.
At the head of the national team since 2017, the coach began to have his name questioned more forcefully due to recent setbacks suffered by the team. Some of them historical.
Among the most symbolic defeats, in a preparatory tournament for the pre-Olympics, Brazil lost 3 sets to 0 to Argentina in the South American final. It was the first time that the team did not win the tournament, considering the editions in which it participated.
In July, the team had already been defeated by 3 sets to 0 by Poland, ending up in the quarterfinals of the Nations League, the same stage in which they lost in 2022, when they fell to the USA.
Although they were not against unimpressive opponents in the sport, the defeats took their toll on Dal Zotto, who now had to live with increased demands to qualify for Paris.
The Argentina team placed third in Tokyo-2021, beating Brazil – already under the command of the now former coach – in the dispute for bronze, and was the champion of the Pan-American Games in Lima, in 2019. The Polish team She is the current world runner-up and leads the FIVB (International Volleyball Federation) ranking of teams.
An exponent of volleyball’s “silver generation”, Dal Zotto had also already struggled to qualify Brazil for the Olympic Games in Japan, having managed to qualify for the 2019 pre-Olympics in the last game, in a dramatic comeback victory by 3 sets to 2 against Bulgaria, at the opponent’s home.
But he also had some important achievements at the helm of the national team, such as the Nations League trophy in 2021, as well as the World Cup in 2019 and the Champions Cup in 2017.
At the 2022 World Cup, the Brazilian team finished with bronze, falling in the semifinals to Poland in a five-set match at the opponent’s home ground.
Brazil also had major victories with Dal Zotto as coach, the most recent of which was this week, when they won in Paris by beating Italy, the current world champion, in the last pre-Olympic game. The tournament marked the rise of new players in the team, such as opposite Darlan Souza, but still mixed with the experience of veterans like Lucarelli and Bruninho.
Amid a mix of positive and negative results from a team undergoing renewal, the national team coach also suffered from the inevitable comparisons that arise due to the men’s team’s victorious record.
Over the last two decades, Brazil has been one of the most dominant countries in the sport, having won practically everything.
From 2000 to now, led by a generation that included names like Giba, Serginho and Nalbert, the team was two-time Olympic champion —in Athens-2004 and Rio-2016— and achieved achievements such as the third consecutive world championship between 2002 and 2010 and eight World Leagues between 2001 and 2010.
One of the symbols of this glorious phase, the current national team coordinator, Bernardinho, was named on social media as the favorite replacement to replace Dal Zotto.
Coach of the men’s team between 2001 and 2017, Bernardinho was announced in September by the CBV (Brazilian Volleyball Confederation) to return to the team in the position of coordinator. According to the entity, the arrival aims to plan for the 2024, 2028 and 2032 Games.
“I want to use my experience to contribute, especially in the development of younger players”, said Bernardinho, who combines his role with coach of the Sesc Flamengo women’s volleyball team. Wanted by Sheetthe selection coordinator informed through his advisor that he would not comment.
In an interview after the game against Italy, in Rio de Janeiro, the president of the CBV, Radamés Lattari, did not want to talk about possible names to lead the team.
“We are going to celebrate this classification and, in a few days, we will think. Brazil has several good coaches. We will think calmly in a little while”, said the director to UOL. CBV stated that the name of the new coach “will be announced soon”.
Whether with Bernardinho or another professional, the Brazilian volleyball team must go through a renewal process for the next Olympic cycles.
Even with some veterans playing a leadership role in the team, such as Bruninho and Lucão, the team ended up suffering in the last cycle with unexpected absences, such as Olympic champions Douglas Souza and Maurício Souza — the former announced his early retirement from the team last year, while the second was fired from the club where he played for homophobic comments.
In the pre-Olympics, in which it was also unable to count on Cuban-born Brazilian Yoandy Leal, recovering from injury, Brazil saw the emergence of a potential new idol of the sport.
At just 21 years old, Darlan Souza was the team’s highlight. Top Brazilian scorer in the competition with 112 points, the Sesi-Bauru player lifted the crowd at moments when the team was going through difficulties, gained the public’s sympathy for the unusual way of celebrating points, with gestures like a character from a Japanese manga, and became a symbol of renewal in the national team.