Lopez

Cuban outside hitter Miguel Angel Lopez

In just over two weeks' time, six clubs will participate in this year's edition of the FIVB Volleyball Men's Club World Championship. The competition will take place over five days from December 7 to 11 in Betim, Brazil with reigning world champions and host club Sada Cruzeiro Vôlei to be joined by Brazilian clubs Vôlei Renata and Itambé Minas, Sir Safety Susa Perugia and Trentino Itas of Italy and Paykan Club of Iran. For more information, visit the competition website here.

Sada Cruzeiro could hit an impressive milestone at the Men's Club World Champs next month in Brazil when the defending champions aim at their fifth title in the history of the competition. If the home team manage to retain their world crown, they will not simply tie Trentino Itas as the club with the most titles, they will also take over the top of the overall medal table.

· Watch the Volleyball Club World Champs 2022 live and on demand on Volleyball TV.

While the Italian powerhouse have five gold and three bronze medals from the Club World Championships, but no silvers, the Brazilians won titles in 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2021, finished runners-up twice, in 2012 and 2019, and claimed bronze in 2017. Sada were on the podium at seven of the last nine editions of the competition.

Last December, at the 2021 Club World Championship, which was also held in Betim, Sada Cruzeiro won their four matches, dropping a single set in their semifinal against fellow Brazilians FUNVIC Natal. And in the final, Sada dethroned defending champions Cucine Lube Civitanova of Italy after an emphatic straight-set victory.

Cuban outside Miguel Angel Lopez, who was the best scorer of the gold medal match, was honoured as the Most Valuable Player of the tournament and named on to the Dream Team. Another three Sada Cruzeiro players – setter Fernando Kreling, opposite Wallace de Souza and middle blocker Otavio Pinto – were selected among the Club World Championship’s ideal team.

Three of the four Dream Teamers stayed on with the team to defend their crown this season. The club lost their playmaker, but brought in replacements in the form of experienced Brazilian Rodrigo Ribeiro, former Argentinean international Nicolas Uriarte, who arrived from France’s Narbonne Volley, and 18-year-old Ramon Santos Duarte.

In addition to Lopez, the Sada Cruzeiro outside hitters’ list this season features Brazilian national team player Rodrigo Leao, who is in his ninth season with the club, as well as new additions Gabriel Vaccari, coming in from France’s Tourcoing, and 18-year-old Carlos Castro.

Star middle blocker Lucas Saatkamp is certainly the biggest new name on coach Filipe Ferraz’s roster. The 2016 Olympic champion and 2010 world champion transferred to Sada Cruzeiro from Volei Renata and will play against his previous club in his new team’s opening match in Betim. Lucao joined Otavio Pinto, Cledenilson Souza and 19-year-old newcomer Guilherme Silva in the line-up of Sada Cruzeiro middle blockers this season.

There has been no change in the opposite position. Internationally acclaimed player Wallace de Souza will continue to be supported by 22-year-old former junior international Welinton Oppenkoski. Liberos Lucas Bauer and Luas De Deus have also stayed on with Sada.

This season, the club world champions enjoyed a nine-game winning streak to claim their 13th Minas Gerais state championship title. Since the start of the Superliga, Sada have won four and lost two games. One of the defeats came in four sets last Sunday at the hands of Itambe Minas Belo Horizonte, who will also play at the upcoming Club World Championship. The two teams also met earlier this season, when Sada shut out their city rivals to earn their fifth Supercoppa trophy.

“I've been talking a lot with the athletes, about the responsibility we have now. We need to use the Superliga championship as preparation for the Club Worlds. We have about a month to bring the team to its peak, to its highest level, so we need to use each game and each training session to take advantage of the opportunity to evolve to the fullest. Each player growing up grows the team as a whole.” Filipe Ferraz, head coach of Sada Cruzeiro Volei

Sada Cruzeiro’s opening Pool A match against Renata in Betim on December 7 is set to start at 21:00 local time. On December 9, at 21:15, the home team will take on Italy’s Sir Safety Susa Perugia.