IN THE run-up to the tournament, Qatar coach Zohair Belhaj had said Egypt and Algeria were the teams to beat.
Holders Qatar defied the odds to beat Algeria 25-20, 25-21, 25-20 in the semifinal, but they came a cropper against Egypt in the final.
It was Egypt’s third triumph in the competition’s history and the 25-20, 25-20, 25-10 victory reiterated their supremacy. Algeria finished third with a 25-23, 25-17, 26-24 victory over Kuwait in the play-off.
Qatar had nothing to lose and arguably put up one of their best performances in recent times to remain unbeaten in the group stage. The fact that they lost only one set till the final was ample proof of the improvement that they have made under Belhaj, who took over the reins only in October.
Qatar had won silver at the inaugural GCC Games in Bahrain, which was the first tournament under Belhaj.
“I’m satisfied with the second place. We lost to Egypt, who’re the best in the region. They proved too good for us,” said Belhaj.
Qatar were able to match Egypt in the first two sets, but were virtually blown away in the third as the latter celebrated at the Al Rayyan Indoor Hall.
Despite the defeat, Qatar can take a lot of positives from the campaign, especially the performance of youngsters like 21-year-old Ahmed Diab, a fact which Belhaj acknowledged.
“We’ve a young team with some very good players. We’ll try to improve our level and follow the example of Egypt,” he said.
Belhaj’s sentiments were shared by skipper Saeed Juma, who was part of the winning squad in Cairo, Egypt, four years ago.
“We’ve a young and inexperienced team and, to be honest, we weren’t expecting to reach thus far. It’s a historic achievement for my team to be in the final twice in a row and we all are happy with the silver. After all, we lost to a superior team,” he said.
Egypt reigned supreme in the women’s section, winning all four matches (eight points) in the final round. Algeria claimed silver (seven) and the UAE (six) bronze.