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  1. ITV Report

World Cup-predicting ants back England to beat Panama in Sunday match

Leafcutter ants race back to the queen with their flags. Photo: PA

England have been backed to beat Panama on Sunday – by a colony of World Cup-predicting ants.

The leafcutter ants gave England their backing when the insect carrying the England flag beat the one carrying Panama's flag back to the queen after racing along 36m (118ft) of rope.

Richard Nicholson, of Cannon Hall Farm, near Barnsley, South Yorkshire, said he was optimistic as the mini-stunt has already predicted a Three Lions win against Tunisia.

Any bias on behalf of the ants, which reside in the UK, was not taken into account, but this does not worry Mr Nicholson who said he was "forever hopeful" of England's chances of success.

Leafcutter ants can carry 20 times their body weight. Credit: PA

The farm worker, born in 1966, the year of England’s only World Cup win, continued: “It’s a bit of fun for the World Cup. We have leaf cutter ants in one glass box and they get their food in another.

“They kept overtaking each other, so maybe the match will be closer than we expect...

“We’ve got to live and hope.”

Mr Nicholson studied graphic design and put his art skills to use in designing the mini flags.

He added: “I made them out of edible paper and ink – I was surprised they picked them up actually, they are surprisingly willing to carry most things.”

England can guarantee a spot in the knockout phases if they win and Belgium beat Tunisia.

However, Panama will be determined to avoid dropping out of the tournament, and need to avoid defeat to do so.