DUBAI // Ahmed Zakaria, the UAE coach, sees a bright future ahead for his young team following a doughty performance in their opening match of the Sheikh Rashid International Volleyball Tournament last night.
The UAE, cheered on by the home supporters, stretched Pakistan in every set before going down 20-25, 25-23, 28-30, 31-33 on the opening day of the six-nation tournament at the Al Shabab club.
"I am certainly disappointed because we played well and had a good chance to win," Zakaria said. "All the sets were very close and could have gone either way. I believe we were plain unlucky to lose this match, and we made a few mistakes as well."
Zakaria is using this tournament to prepare the UAE for the Gulf Championship in Bahrain from October 11-22. He will also be taking the team to a tournament in Slovenia next week.
"I believe this team has a lot of promise," Zakaria said. "There is a huge difference between last time and this year. We have changed most of the players from last year. There are only four players from last year.
"I hope this team will continue till the 2013 Asian Championship in the UAE. I hope to prepare a good team for the tournament."
In the opening match, the top seeds, China, started their campaign with a 25-20, 25-27, 25-15, 25-22 win over Iran.
The Chinese have come for the tournament with their first team, and are hoping to use the matches here to get the players into top shape for the Asian Men's Volleyball Championship, which starts from September 21 in Tehran.
"For us, the most important thing is the Asian Championship, and we would like to use this tournament to warm up for it," said Jin Uriarte, the China coach whose team are top seed for the Asia tournament as well.
"Our target is to qualify for the World Cup from the Asian Championship. Of course, we also want to win this tournament. We had a good camp back home before coming here and in this tournament, our focus will be on getting the players into top condition."
The Iranians have sent an experimental squad here, with not a single player from their top 30 being a part of the team.
"This China team is a very experienced one, my team is a very young one," said Sherif Hamdy, the Iran coach. "They don't have international experience.
"The 20 top players of Iran are preparing in Tehran for the Asian Championships, and the 10 players ranked behind them did not come with us. So I believe we have done well, given the team we have."