Baku, June 13, AZERTAC
Experienced international players will line up alongside rising stars at Baku 2015.
The women’s volleyball competition will see fascinating battles between emerging and experienced nations as they compete for the first European Games gold.
Italy, world No.5 and the highest-ranked team in Europe, have sent a young team to compete as they seek to offer a new generation of athletes more international experience.
"The team is very young. Some have a bright future ahead and this event is a good opportunity for them to show what they can do and gain experience at an international competition,” Italy’s head coach Fabio Soli said. "Our main goal here is for the girls to gain experience."
Azerbaijan, ranked no.29 in the world, will be hoping to benefit from the Italians' lack of experience, as well as from the support of the home crowd.
"We always play with full stands in both local and international tournaments,” Azerbaijan captain Oksana Kurt said. “We expect the same in the European Games."
They will face tough opposition in the hunt for medals from Russia and Germany, who won gold and silver respectively at the most recent European Championships, in 2013.
Russia have sent a mixed squad, with some younger players joined by the experienced trio of Anna Matienko, Yulia Podskalnaya and Irina Zaryazhko.
"All of our rivals are strong. The Netherlands, Bulgaria, Serbia and Germany are strong teams that will play with their first teams," head coach Vadim Pankov said.
Pool A features Italy, Turkey, Belgium, Poland, Azerbaijan and Romania. Pool B consists of Russia, Serbia, Germany, Netherlands, Croatia and Bulgaria.
The first day of competition will see six matches on Saturday 13 June, with Serbia taking on Croatia at 11:00. Azerbaijan will get their tournament underway when they play Romania at 16:30.
After five rounds of pool matches, the top four in each table qualify for the quarter-finals that begin on 23 June.
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