RIO DE JANEIRO (2016 Rio Olympics) - It's been a very long time since Brazil's women made it to the podium of a major basketball event.
Brazil, when they were coached by Antonio Carlos Barbosa at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, defeated Korea, 84-73, in the Bronze Medal Game. There haven't been many signs of late to think the current squad has medal potential.
But don't tell that to veteran coach Barbosa, who was recently put in charge of the team for the third time in his career. His mindset with the Olympics almost nine months away is simple and straightforward.
"I'll take the best players, work to be a strong group and make sure they are ready to fight for a medal," he said. "We have to think big. The athlete has to be competitive and most importantly, be able to withstand the pressure that's in front of us."
In other words, the coach expects to be celebrating by the end of the tournament. He wants players to have that attitude, too.
Barbosa isn't making any changes to the squad that his predecessor, Luiz Augusto Zanon, announced for next month's Olympic Test Event in Rio de Janeiro. The list of players is Adriana Pinto, Taina Mayara da Paixao, Joice Cristina de Souza Rodrigues, Tassia Pereira de Souza Carcavalli, Isabela Ramona Lyra Macedo, Iziane Castro Marques, Jaqueline de Paula Silvestre, Tatiane Pacheco Nascimento, Clarissa Cristina dos Santos, Damiris Dantas do Amaral, Gilmara Justino and Nadia Gomes Colhado.
"I will stick to that call because it was done very well by coach Zanon," Barbosa said. "As for the Olympics, we will make our player evaluations and see what happens."
Barbosa knows there will be very talented opponents at the Olympics. While the USA will be the heavy favorites, plenty of competitive teams will arrive in Brazil from all over the world.
"This year I attended the European Championship (EuroBasket Women) games and noticed an evolution that emerged in some teams," Barbosa said. "Spain is good, the Serbia team great, and I see Europe with large teams (France, Spain, Turkey and Belarus)."
"Canada have improved a lot and is also playing well," Barbosa said. "Japan were the great strength of Asia, but struggles with height problems."
Canada thumped Brazil, 83-66, in the Semi-Finals of the FIBA Americas Women's Championship in Edmonton before capturing the title.
Japan rolled to a second successive FIBA Asia Women's crown.