BrazilCoach: Marcus Oliveira
The pulsating emotions of the partisan fans at the Future Arena back at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games propelled the Brazil men’s team to their best-ever ranking in their fifth Olympic experience.
However, their seventh-placed ranking could have been even higher had they not come up against the legendary French in the quarter-final. An emotionally drained Brazil were outclassed, losing 27:34, but that could fuel the fire of the squad going into Tokyo 2020.
“I remember exactly [when] we lost against France in the quarter-finals,” said Brazil’s Thiagus Petrus to ihf.info. “We felt that 15 minutes from the second half we were equal but then we had no more power.
“In the end, the arena was full and they helped support us in an amazing way but they knew that we did everything we could. We finished that Olympics with a feeling that we gave it our all, but we didn’t go far. That’s not complaining; we gave everything we could and that is the way and spirit of the Olympic Games and the spirit of sport.”
The highlight for them on home soil five years ago was undoubtably their 33:30 preliminary group victory over eventual bronze medallists Germany, who they will face at Tokyo 2020, as well as the French again. But it is their third match in Japan, against Spain, which is likely to be the most emotional as Spain’s coach, Jordi Ribera, was the Brazil coach who led them to that historic rank in Rio.
South American rivals Argentina and European heavyweight Norway are the remaining two of six in the group, described by Brazil’s Barça left back Haniel Langaro as the ‘Group of Death’.
“Our group is very difficult and I believe that we may have surprises in ours,” said coach Oliveira to ihf.info. "Spain has a very technical and tactical game and use a lot of physical strength. France has countless titles and play very strong handball. Germany also plays very hard and has a tradition that helps on the court. Norway has a Nordic style, with secure defence and an excellent transition. Argentina will be a classic.
“We will play game by game, looking for victory in all of them – every game is a final,” he added. “We cannot do much planning and strategy, [we can only] face each opponent in search of victory.”
The Brazilians qualified for Japan thanks to a second place at the Tokyo Handball Qualification 2020 – Men’s Tournament 1 in Podgorica, Montenegro last March.
A heavy loss to Norway (20:32) in their opening game, followed by wins against Republic of Korea and South American rivals Chile, meant it was an anxious wait right until the very last game between Norway and Korea to see if they qualified, but the Europeans duly obliged and took a 15-goal win to secure celebrations for the team in the yellow shirts.
“We watched all the Norway game,” said Brazil’s Gustavo Rodrigues to ihf.info. “We were so happy in the end when they won the game and we took the place to Tokyo 2020. It means a lot for us and for handball in Brazil. I had a lot of emotions in only a short period of time, it's really crazy. We are so happy.”
The continental clash against Chile was a nervous display and highlighted a vulnerability of Oliveira’s squad as it was their opponents who were in charge for 41 minutes – including being up by six at half-time (17:11) – but Brazil showed the exact opposite side of that vulnerability, rallying and coming back in the end to grab their ticket, winning 26:24.
The achievement was welcomed back home, following a poor performance at the 2021 IHF Men’s World Championship in Egypt a few months earlier.
Partly due to COVID-19 – both Oliveira and Petrus missed the whole championship as they tested positive – Brazil were not their normal selves in their six games, led by assistant coach Leonardo Bortolini.
Despite an impressive last-second 29:29 draw against eventual bronze medallists Spain in their opening match, an underwhelming 32:32 tie against Tunisia – although the nature of Brazil’s comeback from two goals down with just 36 seconds remaining was impressive – followed.
A trio of European losses came after (23:33 vs Poland, 23:29 vs Hungary, 24:31 vs Tokyo 2020 opponents Germany) and their campaign ended with an expected win against debutants Uruguay (by 20 goals). That result would see them secure 18th place, their lowest rank in the last five championships and well below their best-ever result – ninth at the 2019 edition.
Brazil continue to remain just below the next level of global handball, looking for the spark to break through. Providing that spark could be Barça’s left back Haniel Langaro who top-scored for Brazil in Egypt with 30 goals. Langaro plays in Spain alongside Petrus, with the pair winning the EHF Champions League Men in June.
Europe is the favoured destination for Langaro to play his club handball, who, like the majority of the Brazilian squad, plays weekly in the French, Spanish and Romanian top divisions. Other key players for Brazil in Europe include captain Henrique Teixeira at CSM Bucuresti and dominant line player Rogerio Moraes in Hungary, with Telekom Veszprém.
All were named in Oliveira’s 21-man squad for their preparation camp held in Portugal (Porto/Nazare) in June/July, where they played the Portuguese. The coach will then name his 15 for Tokyo who will then travel to Germany (Nuremberg) to play against the Tokyo 2020-bound Germany and Egypt.
Mid-July sees the squad travel to Ota in Japan, with a friendly planned against the host nation before they move into the Olympic Village on 21 July.
“The Olympic Games is the most beautiful competition to play in for all the players,” said Moraes to ihf.info.
“When you start to be a professional you dream to play in that kind of competition. I dream a lot when I was a child to be in that kind of competition and now I had the dream come true. It will be my first Olympic Games and I'm really, really excited to be there and to enjoy that moment.
“Before that, we have so much work. We have lots of trainings and all the preparation to be ready to be in shape and to be in good form to play [at Tokyo].
“We are in a tough group and we have to give our best there. We have to start the preparation really well and really strong to be ready to play 100% against Germany, Spain, France, Norway and Argentina.
“Everybody knows how hard the Olympic Games is, all the best teams are there to play and we are one of the teams. We are preparing ourselves to be better than at the last world championship. Now, we have all the players.”
Key players: Leonardo Tercariol (goalkeeper), Rogerio Moraes (line player), Thiagus Petrus (left back), Haniel Langaro (left back), Henrique Teixeira (centre back)
Qualification for Tokyo 2020: Tokyo Handball Qualification 2020 Tournament 1 – 2nd place
History in Olympic Games: 1992: 12th, 1996: 11th, 2004: 10th, 2008: 11th, 2016: 7th
Group at Tokyo 2020: Group A (Argentina, Spain, Germany, France, Norway, Brazil)