Curitiba, Brazil, July 4, 2017 – When Brazil enters the Arena da Baixada at 15:05 this Tuesday (July 4) to start its FIVB World League Finals – Group 1 campaign against Canada, home fans will see many of the players who won the gold medal at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games less than a year ago on the court.
A very familiar face, though, will be missing, as legendary libero Sergio Santos retired from the National Team right after the Olympics at the age of 40. In his place, there will be not one, but two players who will have the tough mission of replacing the two-time Olympic and three-time world champion.
Since Sergio’s farewell, Brazil’s head coach Renan Dal Zotto has been interchanging 31-year-old Thiago Brendle and 28-year-old Thales Hoss in the role of libero. While the first is on the court when the team is serving to make use of his good defense, the latter takes charge of the receiving duties.
“I’ve been in the National Team for three years now and Sergio and I have been working on this transition for a while”, Brendle commented. “It has been good to share the court with Thales since each of us is better in one fundamental and by working together we can help the team. Using two liberos is something many coaches in the world have been doing and I believe it has been extremely useful for us”.
If Brendle is in his third season with Brazil, Thales was called up for the first time in 2017. A 2009 Junior world champion, he confessed he didn’t expect to have an opportunity so early and dismissed the pressure of replacing Sergio.
“Replacing Sergio would be very hard, almost impossible”, he said. “I don’t even know if one day there will be a libero like him, but I’m trying to do my best. I didn’t expect to play so early but the opportunities just came. I think I’m doing well and I don’t feel this pressure of replacing Sergio. I am here to do my job”.
Coach Renan Dal Zotto praised the rookie’s personality and remarked that both liberos are getting the job done and contributing to the team’s success.
“He (Thales) played really well in the Superliga and that’s why he’s here”, Renan revealed. “He developed a lot during the Preliminary Round, had a great performance and also showed leadership, which is important. Saying that they need to replace Sergio is not fair and it’s actually not what we expect from him and Brendle. If they can do their best, it will be enough for us”.