DUBAI // Ahmed Zakaria, the UAE coach, says his players need to learn the art of winning if they hope to do well in the forthcoming Gulf Games.
The UAE have run their rivals close in virtually every match of the Sheikh Rashid International Volleyball Tournament, but have won just one set in four matches - against Pakistan in the opening game - and have been blanked 3-0 by Australia, Egypt and China.
Playing against China yesterday, the hosts went toe-to-toe with their top-seeded opponents before falling in the final moments of the sets, 17-25, 21-25 and 15-25.
"We must play better than this," Zakaria said. "We must learn to win. There is no point coming close and losing. Why should we be the team to lose every time from that position? We should start winning such sets.
"We also need to work on a few aspects of our game. We had problems with our serve. The Chinese team is very, very strong, and they made some really good combinations at the net, which made it very difficult for our players to block, or deal with their attackers."
The Gulf Games - the first multi-sport competition for Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries - will start in Bahrain from October 15 and run until October 22. More than 1,500 athletes are expected to take part in about a dozen disciplines.
Among the GCC countries, only Qatar are ranked higher than the UAE in the world volleyball standings, but Zakaria said the competition will be tough. The top three from the tournament will get a ticket to the Arab Games in December.
"In this tournament, I hope to improve our position and fight for a top-three finish," Zakaria said. "If we finish in the top three, we will qualify for the Arab Games, and that is our target.
"Qatar are the best team, and after that Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait and the UAE are at the same level. So we will have to learn to win the close games."
Khalid Hamza, one of the liberos of the team, believes the team could not have had a better preparation for the GCC Games than the Dubai tournament.
"Our performance in this tournament gives the players a lot of confidence," Hamza said. "We did not win any matches, but we gave all the teams a tough fight. None of the teams can say they had an easy game against us.
"For us, playing all these matches has given us belief."
In other matches yesterday, Australia beat Pakistan 25-11, 25-18, 25-23 to stay in contention for the second spot.
Elsewhere, Al Ain have pulled out of the Volleyball Federation Cup, starting at Al Jazira Club on Tuesday, citing a shortage of numbers in their squad, as they have four players representing the national team.