On arrival at Auckland International Airport, coach Oleksandr Petrakov and his team were treated to a performance from Tainui’s Haka Legend group and words of welcome from representatives from the city council. They also received a rousing reception from members of the local Ukrainian community, clad in the nation’s traditional blue and yellow colours, who sang the country's national anthem and presented the team with a traditional gift of sourdough bread and salt. Ukraine, of course, have the distinction of taking on the hosts in the tournament’s opening match at 1pm on Saturday 30 May.
Each competing nation will receive their own official welcome upon landing at the venue at which they will be based during the group stage. And with Auckland having taken centre stage today, Wellington and Dunedin will be the next of the seven host cities in the spotlight. That will be on 25 May, when Austria - who have already landed in New Zealand - move on to Wellington, while the latter city welcomes both Uruguay and Mexico.