By Alexandra Ulmer and Andrew Osborn
VOLGOGRAD, Russia, June 18 (Reuters) - England and Tunisia players swatted away swarms of gnats during their opening World Cup game in Russia’s riverside city of Volgograd on Monday.
The area around Volgograd is known for its swamps and wide rivers, the perfect breeding ground for insects during the hot and dry summer in the Russian south.
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 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.
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.
Tunisia’s Ferjani Sassi was also pestered by them before the took a penalty - but he still managed to score as the African side went into halftime level at 1-1 with England. (Reporting by Alexandra Ulmer and Andrew Osborn in Volgograd Additional reporting by Simon Evans, editing by Ed Osmond)