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Roberto Santilli on Australia’s ‘Big Goal’ – Rio 2016

Wednesday, 25 May 2016
Zuzanna Dulnik - @ZetDe04
Coach of Australia, Roberto Santilli, during 2015 World Cup (Photo: FIVB)

Roberto Santilli and Australia are among eight teams who will compete for one of four Olympic berth available at World Olympic Qualification Tournament in Japan, which is starting Saturday 28. Volleyroos can either secure the Olympic berth as top Asian team or as one of the top three in the competition. Four years ago Australia, led by coach Jon Uriarte back then, won Olympic berth to London 2012 at AVC Continental Olympic Qualification, defeating continental favourites like Iran and Japan. Roberto Santilli talks about his team’s chances to check-in at Rio 2016.

Australia enters WOQT as one of the three top Asian teams from FIVB Ranking, alongside Iran and China. WOQT doubles with Asian OQT and so one of the four Olympic berths is secured strictly for the best Asian team in the competition. Previously FIVB rule stated that if top Asian team will be among top three teams of the competition, the last Olympic berth will go to the next top Asian team. That rule was changed in the last few months, stating that the last Olympic berth in that case will go to any next top team in the competition, no matter the continent. This gives Asian teams fewer chances to go to Rio 2016.

“Asia should have one more place, but then I also have to say if Africa has possibility to qualify two teams for the Olympics, why there is not a spot for Oceania? That is unfair”

In men competition Egypt secured spot at the Olympic wining African OQT, Tunisia and Algeria will compete for another Olympic berth in ‘small’ WOQT in Mexico City against host team Mexico and Chile, while Asian teams doubled up their OQT competing with teams like France, Poland and Canada. The latter, as well as all non-European teams in the competition will be Australia’s biggest opponent in Santilli’s opinion.

For me France and Poland are above all the participants.

Santilli is confident about his team’s disposition for the tournament. Australia played friendly matches with Italy before heading to Japan.

I am 100% satisfied with the squad and form of my team. We were working for a short period, but the quality of what we are doing and the effort of the players and staff is absolutely remarkable.

The coach will be able to check his team’s disposition first thing on Saturday as Volleyroos will open the competition playing their ‘local’ opponent Iran. Iran was stopped by Australia on the way to London 2012. Led back then by Julio Velasco, Iranians had strong confidence about qualifying to the Olympics from the AVC OQT, but it was Australia who claimed the ticket to London.

Four years later the pressure on Iran is even higher. Could that loss at the AVC OQT in 2012 be the reason of Iranian’s attitude towards Australia? Iranian players, including captain Saeid Marouf, commented on Volleyroos during World League 2015, claiming that they shouldn’t be included in competition’s Group 1.

Australia won its spot in World League Group 1 by defeating France in Group 2 Final Four in 2014. In 2015 edition Volleyroos kept their spot in Group 1 recording more victories than Russia. In an interview for Volleyverse Nehemiah “Nemo” Mote responded to Iran’s comments, recalling Australia’s victories that allowed the team to remain in the World League. Roberto Santilli agrees that actions can speak louder than words and recalled his team’s victory over Iran at the World Cup 2015 (3-0) as an answer to Iranian captain’s comments.

If Australia qualifies for the Olympics, tougher opponents will be waiting there. With Volleyroos with or without the Olympic berth, what will be the final in Santilli’s opinion? The coach admits he is not good at predicting results.

If I have to say something I predict a final USA-BRA.

Volleyball expert meets volleyball rookies

Roberto Santilli comes from Italy, country with a very long tradition and culture of volleyball. Growing up and playing in the country of triple world champions (1990, 1994, 1998) and one of the best leagues in the world (perhaps the best during his player’s career), Santilli continued his career in volleyball as a coach. Although he previously worked with Italian junior national team, Australia is his first senior national team he works with after years of experience as a club coach. What are the biggest challenges of working with the team like Australia, which is so different to the state of volleyball in Italy? “Good question! At the beginning we had to define long and short term objectives”, recalls Santilli explaining that his job with Australia is more than just coaching.

Short term Olympic berth is the Big Goal. It can be a trigger that will increase the popularity of our sport in a country, where it’s quite impossible to see volleyball live, even broadcasted in TV. It will also guarantee the government’s support for Australian Federation

But it’s not just about the Olympic Games. What happens when the team achieves the ‘Big Goal’ and comes back from Rio de Janeiro? Australian volleyball needs to maintain the popularity that will most likely raise after winning the Olympic berth.

We have to provide everything for young players to ensure their good start in volleyball and have a good career in Europe. There is no professional league in Australia, and so going to Europe is the only solution we have for the players to grow and to avoid young guys that we grow up in the Federation program to drop out and give up on volleyball.

Olympic Games are only one of the big challenges for Roberto Santilli and Volleyroos. But to be able to maintain the effects of achieving the ‘Big Goal’, Australia has to finish as one of the top four teams at WOQT in Japan. What are Australia’s chances for Rio 2016 in our opinion? Volleyverse predictions will follow this week in an WOQT preview.

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