Please wait while content is loading.
15th appearance (15 consecutive)
The golden generation is here
After a ten-year drought following Oscar Schmidt's retirement, Brazil seems ready to reach new heights with an incredibly talented squad.
The 2005 FIBA Americas championship was a coming out party for Brazil. Of course, the other "Seleçao" had to win and did it convincingly. But everybody is already looking towards the future. Because that's what this team is all about. Relying on the most talented generation ever, the "Auriverde" seem able to reach new heights on basketball's world stage.
The Oscar Schmidt-era allowed Brazil to shine, finishing in the top six in four of the five Olympics between 1980 and 1996. The team also had success at World Championships, finishing fourth in 1986. But Brazil were never able to contend for a title. One of the main reasons was that, come crunch time, their defence was never really competitive enough to shut down their opponents. Brazil was a fun team to watch - always daring - but not the one you would bet on to capture gold.
In 1996, another problem struck the "Seleçao". Oscar Schmidt retired from national team duties, leaving a hole impossible to fill. It basically took 10 years for Brazil to come back, missing the last two Olympics and finishing 10th and 8th at the last two World Championships. Then, at the turn of the century, something happened. Although basketball remained secondary to almost all Brazilians, some young prospects suddenly emerged. And it hasn't stopped since. Based on talent alone, Brazil have the ability to win every major world title over the next 10 years. Famous for their dangerous outside game, Brazil now have the total package. From the traditional point guard to the lethal one-on-one player, from the bulky rebounder to the potentially dominating center, they have every kind of profile a coach could ask for. Four members of the national team are in the NBA, while a few others are knocking on the door.
The young squad now has to find its groove and some consistency. That's what it tried to do during the FIBA America championship in the Dominican Republic. First off, the team was able to regroup after a close defeat against the United States in round-robin play. Brazil then showed they had learned from their mistakes with an impressive win over that same U.S. team in the semi-finals (93-75). Of course, this wasn't the Team USA that one could have expected - with a roster of mainly journeymen. But the Americans still had a handful of valuable veterans playing overseas.
Brazil were the favourites indeed, but had come to Santo Domingo without injured center Nenê and lost forward Anderson Varejaõ to injury during the tournament. Both were usually starters on Lula Ferreira's squad. But the youngsters were poised enough to overcome these losses and make it to the title game, where they beat Argentina pretty easily.
Aside from the title, the other good thing about Brazil's championship run was that the South Americans probably played one of the most aggressive defences that they have ever played. In five of their last eight tournament games, Brazil held their opponents to under 80 points. We're not talking about a defensive juggernaut. But the effort was noticeable, considering Brazil's running tradition. Luis Ferreira's team held Uruguay to under 70 points - the first time in four years of major FIBA competitions that Brazil had done that. Placed in a very tough group in Japan, the "Auriverde" have plenty of chances to test their defence as they take on reigning European champions Greece, 2003 European champions Lithuania as well as Turkey, Australia and Qatar. The return of Varejaõ, who made quite an impression during this year's NBA playoffs with his defence and hustle, could help turn up the "D" another notch. Brazil now knows they can play defence. The questions remain however: how hard and how long?
Another issue for Brazil is finding a reliable point guard to set the offence straight. As talented as Leandro Barbosa or Alex Garcia are, they're not true playmakers. Ferreira's boys have been decent taking care of the ball. But this team is still turnover prone, losing the ball more than 17 times during some games. Ribeirao Preto's Nezinho could help settle things down at times coming off the bench. Aside from controlling the tempo, the main challenge is also to find some balance on offence, with so many players able to score. Alex and Leandrinho must keep in mind that the ball needs to go inside pretty often. Tiago Splitter and Nenê are legitimate threats in the low post and need to be fed properly. Lula Ferreira can count on Marcelinho to remind everybody that the game can also be played inside out. With his MVP title at the FIBA Americas championship, the 31-year-old forward showed that his influence on the team goes beyond numbers. The most experienced player on the roster, the "Carioca" will help stabilize a group that is still very young and inexperienced. It's now time for Brazil to change potential into results.