VOLLEYBALL: The Australian men’s indoor volleyball team will begin its Olympic qualification program on Saturday against Asian rivals Iran, aware that a first-up win would go a long way to securing one of the four tickets available for Rio.
There are eight teams competing in Tokyo over the coming week, and four of them will be heading to Brazil. At least one of those teams has to be from Asia, Australia’s confederation.
“The first game is important, but all the other games are extremely important too,” coach Roberto Santilli said.
“There is not an easy game, and not an impossible one. Everything will pass by our hands now, but we have to think day by day, game by game.”
The eight-team competition will feature some of the best teams in the world, including current World League champions, France, and world championship bronze medallists, Poland.
Australia will need to finish ahead of Iran, China and Japan to lock in an Olympics ticket, although second will be enough if one of the other Asian teams finish top three.
“We are ready,” Santilli said.
“We are very excited to start the tournament. We have been preparing for a long time, and have been thinking about this moment since last year.”
Nearly every member of the Australian squad plays in top European leagues, and only came together in Italy earlier this month.
“It wasn’t easy, but we talk to each other about what we miss, but also to focus on what we have to do,” Santilli said.
“The players are putting in a maximum effort for it.”
Australia has been to four Olympics, the first in Sydney in 2000 and then the 2004 Athens and 2012 London games.
Every Australian match from Japan will be shown live on Fox Sports. Game one against iran starts at noon AEST on Saturday.
The full Australian team is;
Tom Edgar (c)