Lima's 138 points were crucial to Argentina's bronze medal campaign in Tokyo

After a magic 2021 season, which saw them return to the podium at the Olympics after 33 years, the Argentinean men’s national team are set to start their 2022 international campaign at the Volleyball Nations League on Wednesday against reigning world champions Poland in Ottawa, Canada.

With nine of the 12 players who helped the team win bronze in Tokyo last year called up by head coach Marcelo Mendez, including star setter Luciano De Cecco and mercurial outside hitter Facundo Conte, the South Americans enter the tournament in a good position to produce another strong campaign and solidify their spot among the top teams in the world.

There are, of course, some new faces in the 25-player squad assembled by Mendez. Rapidly integrating them into the team is one of the immediate priorities for the team’s veterans.

“We’re very motivated for the first tournament of the year and really looking forward to being on the court again,” opposite Bruno Lima told Volleyball World. “What we experienced in Tokyo was really strong and special, but it’s a new year and we have several new faces on the team. Our goal is to make them feel as if they had been with us for several years so they can help us at the best of their abilities.”

Lima’s importance to the team, however, is likely to go well beyond helping welcome the newcomers into the team. The 26-year-old, 1.98m-tall opposite has been a reliable scoring force for an Argentinean team that built success through their ball control and defensive skills.

Lima had a key role in the Argentinean campaign in Tokyo last year, ending the Games as the men’s tournament's top scorer with 138 points, and will be expected to produce at the same level during this year’s VNL.

“I believe the performances I had in Tokyo were some of the best in my career,” the opposite reflected. “But I’m a player that always thinks I can play better than I already did and I do everything I can to make it happen.”

Lima will carry an even greater responsibility this year. His opposite position is among the ones where changes were made to the roster that succeeded in the Olympics, with the departure of 33-year-old Federico Pereyra.

Besides Lima, the other options for the position during the VNL will be 23-year-olds Manuel Balague and Juan Barrera, who have both very limited experience at the international level and will likely take some time to settle and find their best form.

A veteran at the age of 26, Lima has praised his new teammates for their determination and hard work.

“They are two younger players, who want very much to be on the court playing and showing what they can do,” he analysed. “I think it will be an exciting battle and that will only make us better every single day.”

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