We had giant locusts in 2014 and tear-supping moths in 2016 so, in-keeping with latter day big tournament tradition, England’s opening Group G encounter with Tunisia saw the official launch of the 2018 World Cup insect mascot – or, more accurately, a cloud of about eight million of them.
Thanks to a combination of warming summer temperatures and its proximity of the vast Volga River and the marshland thereabouts, the Volgograd Arena was descended upon pre-match by an infuriating swarm of nibbling midges and mosquitoes.
The local authorities used helicopters to spray industrial amounts of pesticide over the stadium the day before the match to help clear up the problem, but the impact was negligible as both England and Tunisia players were seen being driven slowly insane during the warm-up.
The FA instructed the England team to apply swathes of high-strength insect repellent throughout the night, with several players seen re-coating themselves with spray during stoppages in play.
However, despite the precautions, it would appear that the Three Lions digested their fair share of mosquito matter over the course of the night, with two-goal hero Harry Kane detailing the extent of the irritation.
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.
We had a lot of bug spray on before the game, halftime, 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.
That said, one man who wasn’t phased by the insect plague at all was Tunisian head coach Nabil Maaloul, who was too gosh-darned preoccupied to notice it.
I did not feel the midges because I was so focused on the team, on the game.
Maaloul sounds like the kind of fellow who happily lets flies buzz around in the window all day without actively seeking to smash their brains through their backsides with a rolled-up copy of the TV Times.