Azerbaijan Japan-bound after demolishing Dutch
Azerbaijan are going to the 2018 FIVB World Championship after a magnificent performance against The Netherlands.
It will be Azerbaijan's second straight and fourth overall appearance at the FIVB's flagship tournament, after a 9th place in 1994, 13th in 2006 and 15th in 2010. The Netherlands, fourth at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games and European Championship runners-up in 2015, are now in danger of missing out on the World Championship for the first time since 1986.
Azerbaijan became the second team to advance to Japan 2018, after Rio 2016 Olympic silver medallists Serbia had swept their pool in Warsaw last week.
They both join Japan as hosts and USA as defending champions in the 2018 World Championship.
The Netherlands, as runners-up of the Baku pool, get a second chance at qualifying through Round 3 of the European qualifiers. The Czech Republic advanced to the single round-robin tournament of Round 3 last week from the Warsaw pool.
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Some amazing defending, coupled with a highly efficient attack were key to Azerbaijan's win, as Polina Rahimova top-scored with 28 points (includin 2 aces, 3 blocks and a 23/48 kills for 48%) and Yelizaveta Samodova added 17 more with a kill ratio of 54% (14/26).
Lonneke Sloetjes, who was stopped five times by the Azeri block, was The Netherlands' best scorer with 11 points.
The hosts came back from 21-24 down in the crucial first set and cancelled a total of 7 Dutch set balls before a block by Rahimova and a back row attack by Samadova brought it home. Azerbaijan never looked back from that point on.
In other deciding European qualifer matches on Saturday, ahead of Sunday's finale, Belgium face Italy in Kortrijk and Bulgaria host Turkey in Sofia.
Azerbaijan's Ayshan Abdulazimova, Valeriya Mammadova, Krystsina Yagubova and Yelizaveta Samadova happy as can be in Baku.
The top team from each pool advances directly to the 2018 FIVB Women's World Championship in Japan. The second-ranked team of each pool continues in Round 3 of the European qualifiers for two more tickets to Japan 2018.
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