It’s just under an hour until everything tips off and the atmosphere in Bizkaia Arena is subdued. Ukraine coach Mike Fratello, whose charges are up first, passed me on my way in here and he looked focused but calm ahead of the game with Dominican Republic. Speaking with Ukrainian journalists last night, the mood was confident but with a clear awareness that the first two days here are huge. If they can start 2-0, Ukraine can start planning for Barcelona.
To do that they will also have to beat Finland on Sunday and the sheer number of Finnish fans here has to be a factor. There are 6th man Susijengi shirts dotted around the arena already with plenty of Finns knocking about outside despite their team not playing until the final game of the day.
Bilbao alone has 300 media accredited and all eyes will be on the USA in the late game. They are 37.5 point favourites tonight against Finland but don’t be surprised if they take the foot off the gas if they build a big lead.
Finally, for now, the mood regarding the host nation is far from cocky. The Spanish press here expect their side to make the final but see it as far from a fait accompli. They consider the Group A & B side of the draw to be deeper and are wary of being taken out in the quarter or semi finals.