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England, Tunisia players swarmed by tiny bugs ahead of Group G opener

England's Trent Alexander-Arnold sprays himself with insect repellent ahead of their match against Tunisia.
Trent Alexander-Arnold applies insect repellent ahead of England's World Cup match with Tunisia.

England and Tunisia players had to deal with an unexpected distraction during their World Cup match in the city of Volgograd, Russia, on Monday night: a seasonal outbreak of flies and other little bugs.

Players from both teams could be seen trying to wave the swarming bugs -- all of which are said to be harmless -- away during warm-ups for their Group G opener, with England players using insect repellent to help keep them away.

"We got told before that there was going to be quite a lot of flies and when we went out for the warm-up it was a lot more than we all kind of thought," England striker Harry Kane said after scoring twice in England's 2-1 win.

"We had a lot of bug spray on before the game, half-time, which was important because there was some of them in your eyes, some of them in your mouth, but I guess that's part of just dealing whatever comes your way and the team coped with it well.''

Russian media said authorities used planes in the months before the game to spray the area around the stadium, which is next to the massive Volga river, with a special substance deemed safe to humans and animals that is designed to kill them off, but the effort was only partially successful.

Authorities also tried to regulate the flow of water at a nearby hydro-electric dam which locals believe has a direct effect on the number of insects.

"Preventive measures have helped reduce the number of insects to lower level," according to the Volgograd media office.

And World Cup organisers have said that the bugs are a "typical phenomenon for Volgograd in June due to the local climate" and that the "insignificant amount of flying insects will not disrupt any of the scheduled events in Volgograd."

Several players were sprayed by staff just before kick-off, but that did not appear to be enough either. England's Raheem Sterling looked particularly bothered by the tiny gnats circling his face before the start of the second half.

Ashley Young called the flies "fairly annoying, but it's the same for both teams so you've got to get on with it."

BBC Sport's Natalie Pirks, on the ground in Volgograd, said: "They are on your face, stick to your lips, get inside your nostrils, your ears and your hair. I've had to debug myself at bedtime as you find dead ones you've splatted in the strangest of places."

England went on to win the match 2-1 thanks to a pair of Harry Kane goals, the second coming in stoppage time after the 90-minute mark to give the Three Lions the win.

Information from the Associated Press and Reuters was used in this story

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