Brazil celebrate at the top of the podium in Rimini

Brazil men’s national team have been at the top of the FIVB world rankings for the last two decades, but they still entered the 2021 international season looking for unprecedented glory. Their chase came to an end with their first victory at the FIVB Volleyball Nations League in Rimini, Italy.

The South Americans were a force in the VNL’s predecessor, the FIVB Volleyball World League, winning a record nine titles. They had to settle for fourth in the first two editions of the new event, however, in 2018 and 2019.

That changed between May and June, when the Brazilians won 13 of their 15 matches in the Preliminary Round, and were even stronger in the Final Round, defeating Olympian champions to be France in the semifinals and prevailing over Poland in the gold medal match, a rematch of the last two finals of the FIVB Volleyball Men's World Championships.

“It’s an amazing feeling,” team captain and setter Bruno Rezende said. “It was a tough month for us - remaining the entire time inside the ‘bubble’ was something new. The level of the tournament was extremely high and I believe we deserved to win it. We have 18 players and a coaching staff that work hard every single day for the success of the team. We hope the Brazilian people are proud of us.”

Rio 2016 Olympic champion Wallace de Souza was in top form during the tournament and was key to the Brazilian victory, scoring 13 points against the French and 22 in the final against the Poles, including the championship-winning shot.

The veteran opposite, who went on to retire from international volleyball two months later, following the Tokyo Olympics, split the tournament’s Most Valuable Player Award with Polish star opposite Bartosz Kurek.

Three other Brazilians made it on to the VNL’s Dream Team, including outside hitter Yoandy Leal, middle blocker Mauricio Souza and libero Thales Hoss, who were joined by Polish setter Fabian Drzyga, outside hitter Michal Kubiak and middle blocker Mateusz Bienieck.

“I’m part of a great team and am really happy that I was able to do my job well,” Wallace commented. “It’s our first victory in the VNL and that makes me even happier. We served really well and our passing was great despite Poland’s strong serve. Making very few mistakes was also important.”


Wallace was unstoppable in the gold medal match against Poland

The victory was made even sweeter as it followed head coach Renan Dal Zotto's recovery from Covid-19 after several weeks spent in hospital.

Brazil were coached in the tournament by assistant Carlos Schwanke, but Renan remained in touch with the team during the entire tournament and was honoured by the players and coaching staff members after the final.

“This team deserved it, we played a brilliant tournament,” said Renan. “We knew the VNL was part of something bigger as we prepared for the Tokyo Olympics, but it brought us some really valuable situations. We were really challenged by two great teams in the semifinal and the final and responded really well to both, showing great maturity.”


Brazilian coaching staff members honour Renan after the final in Rimini