It is hard to predict which team is going to grab the only ticket to Rio Olympics at the Women’s South America Olympic qualifier.
As the hosts, the Argentinians are slight favourites, but three other contenders are almost at their level.
The winning team will qualify for the Olympic tournament while the second and third placed teams will earn a second chance to qualify in May.
FIVB Ranking: 12th
Coach: Guillermo Orduna
The Argentinian girls have the chance of a lifetime to finally make it to the Olympics. By the end of the last decade Argentina surpassed Peru and became the second best in South America, behind powerhouse Brazil. Veteran middle blocker Mimi Sosa is their key-player, with a big help from setter Yael Castiglione, wing spiker Yamila Nizetich, opposite Lucia Fresco and libero Tatiana Rizzo. They have been playing together for two Olympic cycles and now, in front of their crowd and without Brazil on their way, the Argentinians are favourites.
FIVB Ranking: 21st
Coach: Mauro Marasciulo
Back in the 1980s, Team Peru was one of the best in the world, reaching their peak when they grabbed a silver medal at Seoul Olympics in 1988. However, since the mid-1990s Peru has gone downhill. They are trying to bounce back relying on a new generation revealed earlier this decade. Their main name is Angela Leyva, a versatile hitter who can play opposite or as wing spiker. At 19, Leyva is constantly featured on the Peruvian press and has been carefully studied by her opponents. Last time Peru went to the Olympics was in Sydney 2000, leaving the Games without a victory.
FIVB Ranking: 27th
Coach: Eduardo Guillaume
Veteran Madelaynne Montaño is certainly the biggest star of this qualifier. This lethal opposite, used to some of the strongest leagues in the world, will be turning 33 on the opening day, willing to keep her promise to qualify Colombia to volleyball at the Olympics for the first time in history. The Colombians are the squad who have improved most since 2011, having played several five-setters with Argentina and eventually beating the Peruvians throughout this decade.
FIVB Ranking: 42nd
Coach: Ivan Nieto
Team Venezuela had their moment back in 2008, when they surprisingly beat the Peruvians in Lima and unexpectedly qualified to Beijing Olympics. Seven of those players are back to make it happen again. Veteran wing spiker Desiree Glod, 33, is one of them. The Venezuelans were the first team to get together for the tournament and arrived in Argentina on December 14th, playing several friendlies, which included some against junior men’s teams.
FIVB Ranking: 53rd
Coach: Hugo Jauregui
The Chilean Federation has been investing more on the development of the sport since 2011, with some better results achieved on men’s beach and indoor. In recent continental tournaments, such as the World Cup qualifier and the South American championship, it was possible to see some improvement on their girls. However, nobody believes Chile could be a threat to their rivals in Bariloche. A set stolen from any of them would be a reason to celebrate for the Chileans. Young wing spiker Catalina Melo, 18, shows some potential.