Qatar high on optimism ahead of Asian challenge
A fine show in the friendly matches has boosted the confidence of the team ahead of the continental championship.
|Pool A||Iran, Australia, Qatar, Sri Lanka|
|Pool B||Japan, Chinese Taipei, Thailand,|
|Pool C||Kazakhstan, China, Oman, India|
|Pool D||South Korea, Indonesia, Pakistan, Kuwait|
|September 13||vs Australia|
|September 14||vs Iran|
|September 15||vs Sri Lanka|
They finished their preparation on a winning note. Their second line of players are battle ready. And the coach and the players are confident. These are key factors the Qatar volleyball team will be hoping to capitalise on at the Asian Senior Men’s Volleyball Championship which begins in Tehran from Friday.
Qatar’s first objective is to finish in the top eight in the 16-team tournament. Such a result will propel them to the Olympic qualification tournament in Jiangmen in China in January where only the champions will make it to Tokyo 2020. While getting to the Olympics is surely a dream for Qatar coach Camilo Soto and his team, the focus at the moment is on clearing the early hurdles.
And two of them surface one after the other in Tehran. Qatar play Australia and hosts Iran in their first two matches in Pool A. “It’s a very tough start for us,” said Soto. But the wins against Australia and China in friendly matches at home last week have kept his optimism intact.
“We are on the winning path. Going into a tournament with wins behind us will boost the morale of the players,” said the coach. “I am also happy with the way the players regrouped after defeats against India. Their game improved at many levels in the last three matches.”
While acknowledging that these results came in friendlies, Soto pointed out that matches in Tehran would be a different prospect. “But we are confident because we have trained well and have had good match practice,” added the coach.
Soto has an abundance of spikers at his disposal — Ibrahim Saeed, Nader Abubakr, Mubarak Dahi and Nikola Vasic. Mahmoud Essam and Suleiman Saeed provide the coach with the option of rotation. In setters Milos Stevanovic and Belal Abunbout the team has a dependable duo with shrewd tactics and keen eye. The combination is a potent one and although Soto is wary of his opponents, the 2018 Asian Cup winners should trigger an equal amount of trepidation among their rivals.
The tournament ends on September 21 and although all the teams would welcome a triumph, their first goal would be to get into the top eight. The top two teams in each pool qualify for the knockout quarterfinals.