Doha, Qatar, It may be so new that few teams have put in more than a few weeks practice, but 4x4 is shaping up as a fascinating format � for spectators, at least.
In the women's competition, the North American derby between USA and Canada quickly started going the American way. Led by crisp attacking from Emily Hartong, the USA seized all the momentum, worked their height advantage and edged just too many plays. Canada briefly got their nose in front in the second set, but it wasn't long before the Americans were through 21-11, 21-16.
They will face a Brazilian team in crushing form on the beach today in Katara. Despite only having a short warmup time due to the team bus getting in a minor accident on the way to the Al Gharafa sand, Brazil were little short of astonishing in their semi-final against Australia. Crisp in passing and accurate across the skillset, their positional strength is also deeper than other teams here, with the imposing Fernanda Berti Alves taking four superb points from blocks. Australia did not perform badly, but they were severely outclassed in two sets that went Brazil's way 21-10, 21-11. It will be difficult to bet against the south Americans today, but perhaps their opponents can force a classic on the sand.
In the men's competition, the USA have looked more coherent in every match, and pulled together to take out an Indonesian team who have impressed most here in Doha. Despite some powerful spiking from their key attacker Rendy Licardo, Indonesia couldn't match the USA for blocks and digs and were outplayed on the court. Their bronze match today versus Poland will definitely be worth a watch.
Finally, the hosts Qatar, still unbeaten, walked out in front of the noisiest home crowd yet seen. They were pushed quite hard by Poland in the first set, with the score levelling at 19-19, but once the hosts had got the first set over the line they streaked away to take the final honours in a solid performance to finish the evening, 24-22 and 21-15. The Qatari talisman Cherif Younousse had plenty of room to manoeuvre, taking 20 of the 45 points the hosts grabbed in barely forty minutes.
The upcoming USA-Qatar final looks like one to savour. The USA pros have all the international experience, but have they developed enough as a team to pull it off against Qatar today, with the mighty Younousse in the form of his life? Perhaps a great final will be the boost 4x4 needs to become a new chapter in volleyball's history.
Source: Qatar Olympic Committee