Zé Roberto expects challenging start for Brazil at Tokyo 2020


Veteran head coach Zé Roberto is heading to his eighth Olympic Games

Lausanne, Switzerland, February 14, 2020 – Heading to his eighth edition of the Olympic Games this summer in Tokyo, Brazil’s women’s volleyball national team coach José Roberto Guimarães knows what it takes to succeed on the biggest stage of international sport after already taking home three gold medals.

After the release of the Olympic tournament match schedule, the veteran coach, who topped the podium at the Barcelona 1992 Games with the country’s men’s team and secured back-to-back golds with the women in Beijing 2008 and London 2012, said Brazil would need to start at full power to avoid being upset in Pool A.

“Our first opponent Korea are a team we traditionally struggle to play against and this is going to be a key match for us,” the coach reflected. “Kim is one of the best players in the world and they have a lot of speed and defensive skills. The Dominican Republic are a little different as a rival, they have massive firepower and have improved a lot over the last few years. Two of their most important players, Brayelin Martínez and Yonkaira Peña, currently play in Brazil, so we know how good they are.”

Ironically, the Brazilians will face opponents who have deep knowledge about them in their first two matches in Tokyo. Korea’s coach, Italian Stefano Lazarini, recently coached in Brazil and led Itambé Minas to the Superliga title in 2019. The Dominican Republic’s coach Marcos Kwiek is Brazilian and spent most of his career in his home country.

The next matches are not supposed to be any easier for the South Americans either, who plan to top their pool in order to have a more favourable opponent when the elimination round starts. In Rio, four years ago, however, despite winning Pool A, Brazil were matched with eventual champions China and were knocked out in the quarterfinal round.

“Japan will play at home, they will have the fans behind them and are one of the hardest teams to score against,” Zé Roberto continued. “Next will be Serbia, the reigning world and European champions and certainly one of the best teams in the world. To play against two great hitters in Boskovic and Mihajlovic and a fantastic setter like Ognjenovic will be a great test for us. And finally Kenya, who have not played in a ton of international events, will be looking to surprise.”

The Tokyo Games could mark the end of Zé Roberto’s illustrious Olympic career as the coach has already announced he’ll step down from Brazil’s national team command at the end of the event. He is currently the only three-time Olympic champion in Brazilian sport and the only volleyball coach to have won Olympic gold medals with both male and female teams. 

“I’ve been on the job for 17 years now, it’s time for someone else to take over,” he said. “I’m trying to enjoy each step of the way, each practice, each match, each travel because I know I’ll miss it. My mission will be completed in Tokyo and I hope I can end it in the best possible way.” 

Zé Roberto poses with the Brazilian flag after his team's victory at the London 2012 Games

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