Lausanne, Switzerland, January 7, 2020 - The Netherlands, Poland and Germany all scored convincing wins on the opening day of the European qualifiers for the women's volleyball tournament of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, while in Asia favourites Thailand and Korea; in South America Argentina and Peru also opened their campaigns with solid wins; and in Africa Kenya are now with one foot in the Olympics.
Lucia Fresco scored 16 points and Paula Nizetich 15 more as Argentina shut out Peru 3-0 (26-24, 25-16, 25-18) on the opening day of the South American qualifiers in Bogota.
Argentina were properly troubled only in the first set which took them two set points to wrap up, as they dominated the game on the net and restricted Peru's Angela Leyva to 13 points.
Argentina's Lucia Fresco tries to beat the Peru block of Karla Ortiz and Maricarmen Guerrero in Bogota on the opening day of the South American qualifiers for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Pool hosts Colombia followed suit a little later, shutting out Venezuela 3-0 (28-26, 25-18, 25-14) to keep themselves on track for the sole ticket to Tokyo 2020 available from this single round-robin pool.
Venezuela reached set point with four to spare in the first, but Colombia ralied from 20-24 down to tie the score and go ahead with a 5-0 run. It then took the home side four tries of their own to bring it home.
Amanda Coneo with 20 points and Dayana Segovia with 18 were Colombia's best scorers, with Venezuela's Meriyen Serrano and Maria Jose Perez bagging 10 each.
Apparently, the Netherlands learnt their lesson from the World Championship qualifiers of two years ago and this time around shut out Azerbaijan 3-0 (25-23, 25-18, 25-22) at home in Apeldoorn, led by an impressive Robin de Kruijf who brough in six of her teams 13 blocks (to Azerbaijan's two) and regsitered an attacking efficiency of 60% (6/10).
De Kruijf was the Netherlands' best scorer at 14 points, though the match high was 18 by Azerbaijan's Yelyzaveta Samadova.
The Dutch restricted Azerbaijan's scoring machine Polina Rahimova to just 11% (2/18) in attack in the first set and although the Azeris led for the best part of it, the home side rallied with a three-point run from 22-23 down to seal it.
In other European action, Bulgaria were quick to grab the first set, but Poland reacted immediately and sailed to a 3-1 (23-25, 25-20, 25-19, 25-22) win powered by Malwina Smarzek who bagged the day's highest scoring on 24 points, as Magdalena Stysiak added another 19. Elitsa Vasileva was Bulgaria's best scorer on 15 points.
The Balkan side outblocked Poland 14 (four by Mira Todorova) to 11, but the 'Red-Whites' were highly more efficient in attacking (41% to 33%) also served seven aces to two.
With 23 points by Hanna Orthmann (including three blocks and two aces) and another 22 by Louisa Lippmann, Germany had earlier opened the European qualifiers at Apeldoorn with a stunning 3-1 (25-15, 21-25, 25-21, 25-21) win over Turkey.
Germany applied some pressure from the service line, including four aces by Camilla Weitzel, as Turkey struggled despite the best efforts of their top scorer on 17 points Zehra Gunes who attacked for 55% (11/20) and added four blocks and all of her team's two aces.
Twice they led and twice they were equalised, but Kenya persevered and edged Cameroon 3-2 (25-16, 23-25, 25-21, 23-25, 15-11) - and the 'Malkia Strikers' now need just one more win on Thursday against winless Nigeria to punch their ticket to Tokyo 2020.
A brilliant performance by Sharon Chepchumba and her match-high 29 points was instrumental to Kenya's win, as Mercy Moim added another 19 and Edith Mukuvilani 14 for the winners. Christelle Tchoudjang was Cameroon's top scorer on 18.
Previously, Egypt had found little resistance from Nigeria, winning 3-0 (25-11, 25-12, 25-12) to stay in a theoretical chase of table leaders Kenya in the single round robin pool.
Farida El Askalany scored 12 points for Egypt and teammate Nada Meawad added another 11 - the only two players in the match to go into double digits.
AsiaIn Asia, at Nakhon Ratchasima, with both Thailand and Korea in the same pool, the two can potentially meet in the tournament's deciding match on Sunday for the sole ticket available to Asia for Tokyo 2020.
The Asian tournament has its seven participants divided into two pools (Chinese Taipei, Thailand and Australia in Pool A; Iran, Kazakhstan, Korea and Indonesia in Pool B). The top two of each pool advance to crosswise semifinals, followed by the deciding match.
Top scorer Kim Yeon Koung on serving duty against Indonesia at Nakhon Ratchasima on the opening day of the Asian qualifiers for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Kim Yeon-Koung played only the first two sets in Korea's 3-0 (25-18, 25-10, 25-9) thrashing of Indonesia, but still finished top scorer of the game on 12 points (including three blocks and four aces) - alongside teammate Lee Jaeyeong (10 points) the only two players across both sides to score in double digits.
Thailand's Ajcharaporn Kongyot hits past the Chinese Taipei block at Nakhon Ratchasima on the opening day of the Asian qualifiers for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Meanwhile, Ajcharaporn Kongyot lifted hosts Thailand to their own sweep of Chinese Taipei 3-0 (25-16, 25-21, 25-16), as she scored a match high 17 points. Chatchu-On Moksri added another 12 for Thailand, countering Chang Li-Wen's 15 for Chinese Taipei.
Alessya Safronova on the attack as she leads Kazakhstan to a sweep of Iran at Nakhon Ratchasima on the opening day of the Asian qualifiers for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Earlier in the day at Nakhon Rtachasima, Alessya Safronova on 12 points and Sana Anarkulova on 10 had inspired Kazakhtsan to a 3-0 (25-14, 25-16, 25-14) over Iran, dominating the game across all skills.
Full schedules of all the continental qualifiers for Tokyo 2020:
● Africa: 5-9 January in Yaounde
● Asia: 7-12 January in Nakhon Ratchasima
● Europe: 7-12 January in Apeldoorn
● North & Central America and Caribbean: 10-12 January in Santo Domingo
● South America: 7-9 January in Bogota
Serbia, China, USA, Brazil, Russia and Italy have already qualified since last August through an intercontinental process. Japan had secured their spot by default as hosts of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
Quick links - Volleyball:
FIVB Continental Tokyo Volleyball Qualification