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Oil-rich Azerbaijan finally gets chance in spotlight

Oil-rich Azerbaijan finally gets chance in spotlight
By Reuters

19/09/2014 at 20:18Updated 19/09/2014 at 21:26

Azerbaijan, famous for its oil resources, will host matches in a major international tournament for the first time after its capital city Baku was awarded three group games and one quarter-final at the 2020 European Championship.

The Caucasus country is situated at the crossroads of Eastern Europe and Western Asia.

"This news has been great for everyone," Rovnag Abdullayev, president of the Association of the Football Federations of Azerbaijan, told reporters on Thursday.

"I would like to congratulate all football fans in our country. The fact that Baku managed to be included amongst the top 13 cities in Europe is an important achievement for sport in the country. It`s collective success for us all.

"I am sure that this will be an extra incentive for the growth of the sport." Abdullayev added.

The majority of Azerbaijan's home matches are held at the old Tofiq Bahramov Stadium, which has a capacity of 31,200, but all four Euro 2020 games will be played at the new Baku Olympic Stadium.

Construction of the venue started in June 2011 and is due to be completed in September, 2015. The cost of the arena is estimated to be 710.6 million euros ($912.55 million) and the National Oil Company of Azerbaijan will pay for it.

The stadium will hold 69,870 spectators and will be the biggest ground in the Caucasus.

Azerbaijan has never qualified for the European Championship or the World Cup and the country's national team lie 95th in the FIFA rankings.

However, the country's footballers believe that winning the right to host part of the tournament will give them the impetus needed to play on one of world football's biggest stages.

"I'm very proud and happy for our country," said former Azerbaijan striker Nazim Suleymanov, who was the first player to score for Azerbaijan in international football.

"It's a big deal to get the right to host such a big tournament.

"I want to congratulate all the football people of Azerbaijan. I believe our national team will give the supporters something to cheer about with their performances and results. I think the people in Azerbaijan should unite to organize Euro 2020 in the best way," Suleymanov added.

The 2020 European Championship, involving 24 teams, will take place in 13 cities across Europe.