Harry Kane’s injury-time header gave England a dramatic victory in Volgograd as fans from London to Volgograd watched Gareth Southgate’s side kick off their World Cup campaign with a 2-1 win over Tunisia.
Only 2,000 fans travelled to the Russian city for Monday night’s clash, including the wives and girlfriends of the England squad, but they were rewarded early on when captain Harry Kane volleyed in from close range to give the Three Lions a deserved lead after 11 minutes.
Those who stayed at home downed tools early to get a good viewing spot for the game on BBC One, which saw Ferjani Sassi equalise from the spot for Tunisia after a foul by Kyle Walker.
England looked as though they would to rue missed chances from Raheem Sterling, Jesse Lingard and John Stones in their first half as they struggled to break down their opponents after the break.
As frustrations grew in the second 45 minutes, with players forced to fend off flies in hot conditions, some England fans turned their ire on the referee for apparently ignoring fouls on Kane.
But in the first minute of injury time Kane headed in from close range to give England all three points after Harry Maguire had flicked on Kieran Trippier’s corner kick.
Kane captained a young side containing nine World Cup debutants as Gareth Southgate’s men kicked off their 2018 campaign four years after the disappointment of an early exit in Brazil.
England captain Harry Kane celebrates after he scored England’s winner against Tunisia in their opening World Cup fixture
Kane heads in from close range in the first minute of added time to give England victory over Tunisia in Volgograd
England’s match-winner Harry Kane is mobbed by his team-mates after scoring his side’s dramatic winner against Tunisia
England manager Gareth Southgate celebrates after Harry Kane’s late winner gave his side victory over Tunisia on Monday
Kane wheels away to celebrate his last-minute winner as England fans cheer their dramatic victory over Tunisia in Volgograd
England fans at the Volgograd Arena celebrate at the final whistle following Harry Kane’s stoppage-time winner on Monday
Rebekah Vardy watches England take on Tunisia in the Group G fixture at the Volgograd Arena on Monday evening
Nicky Pike, wife of England’s Ashley Young, holds her child as she watches the action in Volgograd on Monday evening
Harry Maguire’s girlfriend Fern Hawkins (left) watches England’s match against Tunisia in Volgograd on Monday evening
Goalkeeper Jack Butland’s fiancée, air hostess Annabel Peyton, was among the early arrivals for the Volgograd match
Captain Harry Kane celebrates after he scored from close range to give England the lead against Tunisia in Volgograd
Harry Kane is mobbed by team-mates after giving England an early lead against Tunisia in their World Cup opener
England fans watch their side’s opening match against Tunisia which saw Gareth Southgate’s side claim a late victory
Raheem Sterling fends off flies as England were forced to use insect repellent to get through their opening Group G fixture
An England supporter in Newcastle celebrates his side’s last-minute victory over Tunisia in Volgograd on Monday evening
England fans on board the Bud Boat on the South Bank in London celebrate after Harry Kane scores against Tunisia
England fans in Newcastle celebrate at an outdoor screening after watching Harry Kane score the winner against Tunisia
England fans on London’s Bud Boat react in delight after watching Harry Kane score a last-gasp winner for England in Russia
Fans in London celebrate England’s victory after their Group G opener against Tunisia appeared to be heading for a draw
England fans watch their game against Tunisia at Mooch Bar in Birmingham as Gareth Southgate’s team began the World Cup
England fans celebrate their late winner against Tunisia as they watch the Group G match at Ashton Gate stadium in Bristol
Football fans in Millennium Square, Leeds, show their delight after Harry Kane’s second goal gave England the three points
England fans cheer in the stadium as Gareth Southgate’s side got their World Cup campaign underway in Russia
England fans in London celebrate after Harry Kane’s late winner overcame a stubborn Tunisia side in Volgograd on Monday
Fans pay tribute to ‘Lord of the Flies’ Kane
England fan Dan Howell ,26, of Birmingham whooped with joy and said: ‘Harry Kane is the Lord of the Flies. ‘There were so many midgets flying about and they were as annoying as the Tunisian players who almost got a draw.’
‘We missed so many chances and it looked like it wasn’t going to be our night at stages.
But Harry led his team as captains should and thanks to that second goal by him we got the three points.’
Swarms of flies and pesky midgets caused havoc before and during the game and players had to swat them away before turning to anti-insect lotions.
A helicopter had been used in the days before the match to unleash massive bursts of anti-fly chemicals.
England players sprayed themselves with insect repellent called ‘Jungle Formula’.
John Stones and Jesse Lingard were among those to miss the target in the first half while BBC pundit Alan Shearer thought England should have had a penalty of their own for a foul on Harry Kane.
Tunisia began by sitting deeper as the clock ticked towards the hour, with England trying to patiently pass around the white shirts but struggling to find openings in hot conditions, and Ashley Young sending a free kick over the bar.
One frustrated England supporter likened Tunisia’s tactics to the Rugby World Cup with Kane apparently manhandled several times by opposing defenders.
England players also had to contend with the seasonal outbreak of mosquitoes and little bugs during their opening World Cup game against Tunisia.
Swarms of flies and pesky midgets caused havoc before and during the game and players had to swat them away before turning to anti-insect lotions.
But England dramatically took the three points in the first minute of added time when Trippier swung in a corner, Maguire helped the ball towards the back post and Kane steered his header inside the near post.
Kane said he was proud of England’s battling performance but did not think Tunisia should have been awarded the penalty that led to their equaliser.
He said: ‘It’s massive. I’m so proud of the lads. I thought we played really well, especially in the first half, and deserved to be ahead.
‘We could have scored a few more and then obviously – I’ve not seen the penalty back but from my point of view it didn’t look like one.’
Manager Southgate believed England deserved their victory, saying:’The way we kept playing, even though the clock was running down, we stayed patient, we didn’t just throw the ball in the box.
‘We waited for good opportunities and I think we deserved the win.
‘We made so many clear-cut chances, especially in the first half, were in total control of the game in the second half, we were strong on set-plays all night and I’m really pleased.
‘I thought even if we’d drawn the game, which I know would have made life more difficult for us, I’d have been proud of the performance.’
Former England striker Alan Shearer paid tribute to Kane on BBC’s live coverage, saying: ‘That’s why Gareth Southgate named him captain. When the manager is looking for someone to do something, you want the captain to do something.
Fellow pundit and former Chelsea star Frank Lampard was relieved to see the Three Lions get off to a winning start, saying: ‘Only for the chances we missed in the first half, we would have won this game before half-time.’
England will return to action on Sunday when they play Panama, who lost 3-0 to Belgium in the other match in Group G’s opening round of fixtures today.
‘They kept going and nobody can say they didn’t deserve the win. It would have been so difficult for them if they didn’t get the win.’
Wives and girlfriends of England players watch the action in Volgograd where Gareth Southgate’s team began the tournament
An England fan at the stadium in Volgograd waves a flag ahead of the team’s opening World Cup match
Fans with face paint for both teams’ flags watch the action as England took on Tunisia in Volgograd in their World Cup opener
England fans in full voice in Volgograd as they watch Gareth Southgate’s side defeat Tunisia in a dramatic opening game
Ferjani Sassi beats Jordan Pickford from the penalty spot to level the scores for Tunisia in the Group G match in Volgograd
Tunisia equalised from the spot after Kyle Walker was judged to have fouled his opponent in the penalty area (pictured)
England fans soak up the pre-match atmosphere in Volgograd ahead of the fixture against Tunisia on Monday night
A spectator watches the action during England’s opening World Cup fixture against Tunisia in Volgograd on Monday
England fans hold up flags and cheer for their team during the Three Lions’ opening Group G fixture against Tunisia
Harry Kane goes down during the second half as England struggled to build on their first-half momentum after the break
Some England fans grew frustrated during the second half as Harry Kane appeared to be repeatedly manhandled
England fans enjoy the match against Tunisia which was heading for a draw until Harry Kane’s injury-time winner
England manager Gareth Southgate watches on from the dugout as his side needed a late winner to overcome Tunisia
An unmarked Kane crouches to head England’s winner after Harry Maguire had flicked on Kieran Trippier’s corner kick
Kane’s header finds the back of the net in the first minute of injury time to give England all three points against Tunisia
England players celebrate with Harry Kane after the captain headed in to give England victory over Tunisia in Volgograd
England fans at the stadium in Volgograd celebrate after Harry Kane scored a late winner in the Three Lions’ opening match
Match-winner Kane walks off the pitch with Jamie Vardy after England’s hard-fought win over Tunisia on Monday evening
Kane and his England team-mates celebrate their late victory while Tunisia players look despondent at the Volgograd Arena
Harry Kane is presented with the man of the match award after his two goals gave England victory over Tunisia on Monday
England’s double goalscorer Harry Kane hugs his manager Gareth Southgate after the late victory over Tunisia
Flags from supporters all over the country hung along one end of the Volgograd Arena, including those representing Rochdale, Sheffield Wednesday, Southend United, Bury and Coventry, which is twinned with the city formerly known as Stalingrad.
Those inside the stadium sang the national anthem several times and bellowed out ‘football’s coming home’ as The Lightning Seeds and Baddiel and Skinner’s Three Lions played over the PA system during the warm up.
Kevin Smith, a financial adviser from Birmingham said: ‘I was behind the goal when Kane scored the second and it was a magical moment.
‘Better than anything I’ve seen in sport. Your best player scoring in a World Cup finals match in injury time and winning the game. Incredible. ‘We can keep on building on that and win the group.’
Watford fan Charlie Carlyle, 47, said: ‘Harry can cut the mustard.
‘It only took him a few minutes to score the first goal and he never gave up. ‘I hope he can go all the way and be top scorer at this World Cup like he said he would like too.’
Jenny Fenton ,23, a Tottenham fan, said: ‘That 11th minute goal set the standard for the team and thankfully they delivered in the end.
‘I’m so glad for England but worried now that the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid will try and steal him away from Tottenham.
‘They’ll all be watching him and offering I’m loads of money . It’s great for Harry though and England as he showed he is absolutely world class.’
England fans in Flat Iron Square, London, watch their team’s opening World Cup fixture against Tunisia on Monday evening
England fans in full voice watch the World Cup action at Flat Iron Square in London as Harry Kane scored a late winner
England fans at Flat Iron Square in London watch their team defeat Tunisia on Monday thanks to Harry Kane’s late winner
England legend Paul Gascoigne celebrates with a fan during England’s 2-1 victory over Tunisia in their World Cup opener
Flies surround the England team as they stand for the national anthem ahead of the Group G fixture against Tunisia
Raheem Sterling swats away insects as the England and Tunisia players had to deal with flies during the Group G fixtures
England boss Gareth Southgate (right) and his assistant Steve Holland watch the action from the dugout in Russia
Tunisia fans outnumbered English supporters at the Volgograd Arena as spectators took their seats for the match
Tunisian goalkeeper Mouez Hassen claws John Stones’s header away before Harry Kane volleys in England’s opener
England captain Harry Kane follows up Stones’s header to give England the lead 11 minutes into their World Cup opener
Harry Kane’s follow-up finds the back of the net after John Stones’s header from Ashley Young’s corner was saved
Harry Kane celebrates after volleying England into the lead 11 minutes into their Group G opener against Tunisia this evening
England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford’s dive is not enough to keep out Ferjani Sassi’s penalty in Volgograd
According to the Football Supporters’ Federation, just 2,100 tickets were sold to England fans for the opening game. The vocal Tunisian support even prompted one Tunisian TV interviewer to ask an England fan: ‘Do you feel lonely?’
In comparison, 5,000 England fans travelled to Manaus for the opening match of the Brazil 2014 tournament. In 2010, more than 7,000 supporters went to the Royal Bafokeng Stadium, South Africa, to watch their side’s opening World Cup clash.
Paul Dubberley, 59, from Aldridge near Walsall, in the West Midlands, said: ‘I don’t think there’s many England fans here looking around, we’re a bit outnumbered.’
Sean Tansey, 45, from Bury, said: ‘Last night we walked along down to the stadium and back and we didn’t see any English. The night before a World Cup game it was unbelievable.
‘Unless we were in the wrong part of town. We went into bars all the way down and there was nothing. In fact I like it that there’s a smaller group.’
Retired taxi firm owner Tom Trueman is attending his sixth World Cup having seen Bobby Moore lift the trophy at Wembley in 1966, and said he had ‘no second thoughts’ about it.
Warehouse manager Paul Elliott, 46, from Coventry, West Midlands – which is twinned with Volgograd – said: ‘People said we were mad to come here with the threat of trouble.
‘But I’m here with a beer in my hand and a smile on my face.’
Nobby Robb, 58, from Liskeard, Cornwall, told the Daily Mirror he has a ticket for every England game, all the way to the final if they should make it.
‘I’ve booked flights, accommodation, and spent 1,500 dollars on the tickets alone,’ he said. ‘I will be here as long as England are here.’
Tunisia’s Ferjani Sassi celebrates scoring his team’s equaliser from the penalty spot after a foul by Kyle Walker
Some England fans were seen near empty seats at the Volgograd Arena with only 2,000 England fans making the trip
England players surround referee Wilmar Roldan as he shows Kyle Walker a yellow card after his foul in the penalty area
John Stones fails to convert from close range as England were made to regret missed chances in the first half
England’s Jesse Lingard tries to lift the ball over the onrushing Tunisian goalkeeper but fails to find the target
Marcus Rashford receives instructions from England manager Gareth Southgate as he prepares to replace Raheem Sterling
Captain Harry Kane and goalkeeper Jordan Pickford stand for the national anthem moments before kick-off in Volgograd
An England fan sits on the edge of the stand as supporters gather in the Volgograd Arena for the match against Tunisia
England were watched by around 2,000 travelling fans as they took to the field against Tunisia in their opening fixture
A host of ex-England stars were sharing their support for the Three Lions on social media.
Record goalscorer Wayne Rooney tweeted his support saying: Can’t wait for kick off later and cheering the lads on. Good luck England.’
England manager Gareth Southgate has paid tribute to the fans, saying: ‘There’s been a lot of stories leading into the tournament that have put people off coming.
‘We’re really grateful for the people who are travelling, it’s a huge lift for us to see England fans in the stadium.’
BBC host and former England striker Gary Lineker posted a picture of him in his playing days and wrote: ‘Come on England.’
David Beckham posted a snap of him standing with Harry Kane as a youngster and wrote: ‘Congratulations to Harry on leading England into this World Cup and good luck to Gareth and the rest of the lads…
And Rio Ferdinand, a pundit for the BBC in Russia, wrote: ‘Come on England!!!’
Former England star Paul Gascoigne watches an outdoor screening of England’s opening World Cup match on Monday night
England fans in Newcastle watch in disappointment as Tunisia level the scores from the penalty spot during the first half
England fans at the Bierkeller in Liverpool react in frustration after England concede a penalty in their World Cup opener
Fans at Liverpool’s McCooley’s sports bar watch the action as England take on Tunisia in their 2018 World Cup opener
Fans on the boat get ready to watch England take on Tunisia in the World Cup tonight
England fans outside the Volgograd Arena in Russia before their side’s match against Tunisia tonight
An England fan with red and white face paint takes her seat at the Volgograd Arena for the match against Tunisia
England fans put up a flag reading ‘London Loyal’ at the Volgograd Arena before kick-off against Tunisia tonight
England line up before their Group G fixture against Tunisia at the Volgograd Arena in Russia on Monday night
England fans pose for a picture at the Volgograd Arena as they take their seats for the Group G match against Tunisia
England fans put out their flags ahead of the FIFA World Cup opener against Tunisia in Volgograd on Monday night
Fans sit on the boat with the London Eye in the background in the build-up to tonight’s game
Harry Kane of England leads the team around the stadium as they inspect the pitch prior to the World Cup match
‘He salutes you’: Bradley Lowery Foundation tweets message of support
A charity set up in memory of youngster Bradley Lowery tweeted a message of support for England today.
The post from the foundation in his name showed the six year old Sunderland fan saluting to the camera with the words: ‘Good luck @England.
‘Bradley salutes you, he is looking down from heaven cheering you on.’
Bradley, from Blackhall Colliery, near Hartlepool, battled neuroblastoma most of his life before he lost his fight against the disease in July last year.
He became close friends with Premier League star Jermain Defoe. The player was honoured with an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in recognition of his charity work and dedicated the gong to Bradley.
At home England fans were leaving work early and securing good spots to watch the action at home or in the pub.
One fan said on Twitter: ‘Work done. Got my beers for this evening. Can’t believe I think we are gunna win the World Cup, Football’s coming home.’
Experts estimate Britons will drink 14million extra pints, with the British Beer and Pub Association estimating it will bring a £42million boost to the economy.
Brigid Simmonds, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA), said: ‘We’ve been helped by the very convenient kick-off time.
‘We predict that many more people will go to the pub because they might not make it home in time for the game.
‘Pubs are the best place to watch football anyway, and lots of places which don’t normally show it will be making special arrangements for the World Cup.’
Any fans hoping to save money by buying alcohol from the local shop near the Fifa fan fest in the city would go away disappointed as store staff put red and white tape up across the beers, wines and spirits.
It follows similar measures taken at other tournaments, such as Euro 2016, according to fans.
But England and Tunisia fans had no shortage of places to whet their appetite for both nations’ World Cup kick off on Monday.
England fans took over the popular Harat’s bar while the centre of Volgograd had a carnival atmosphere with large numbers of Tunisia and England fans mixing in the fan zone as the Sweden versus South Korea match kicked off.
Former England striker Wayne Rooney wrote: ‘Can’t wait for kick off later’
David Beckham posted a picture on Instagram of him with Harry Kane
Rio Ferdinand, who is in Russia as a BBC pundit wrote: ‘Come on England!!!’
Gary Lineker posted a picture of him in his England shirt and said: ‘Come on England.’
Russian fans mingle with England supporters, with one holding the England flag aloft in the Volgograd fan zone
Any fans hoping to save money by buying alcohol from the local shop near the Fifa fan fest in the city would go away disappointed as store staff put red and white tape up across the beers, wines and spirits
The alcohol ban follows similar measures taken at other tournaments, such as Euro 2016, according to fans
England fans in Volgograd, with some were enjoying the beer at the Harat’s Pub in the historic Russian city