12 October 2012

England Should Score Plenty Against Whipping Boys San Marino

Almost 19 years ago England played footballing minnows San Marino for the second time in their history. Needing to win by seven goals to have any chance of qualifying for the USA World Cup in 1994 Stuart Pearce under-hit a back-pass in the ninth second of the match and Davide Gualtieri nipped in to put his name into footballing folklore. His goal, scored after 8.3 seconds, remains the fastest ever goal in World Cup football.

Tonight the two nations meet again, this time nearer the beginning of a World Cup qualifying campaign. The last time they met at Wembley David Platt scored four in a comfortable 6-0 win for England. 

Not much has actually changed since that day in 1993; England still struggle in matches that they should win and haven't won a trophy while San Marino remain the whipping boys of European Championship and World Cup qualification. 

In 2006 Germany travelled to the micro-state's home stadium, the Stadio Olimpico, and broke the European international record for the biggest winning margin. The visitors won 13-0, with Lukas Podolski netting four times. 

Both times England have faced the 'David' of international football one of their players has scored four. Platt scored four in the home fixture in 1993 and Ian Wright did the same in the 7-1 win that confirmed that Graham Taylor's men would not be going to America. 

Tonight Wayne Rooney will skipper England in the absence of Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard, through injury and suspension respectively. A home win is almost guaranteed, with bookies giving odds on an England victory at around 1/200 and a San Marino win priced at 80/1.

Roy Hodgson is expected to tinker with his starting eleven a little bit, and news has already filtered through that Everton left-back Leighton Baines will start ahead of Ashley Cole. Cole escaped an England ban after apologising to FA chairman David Bernstein for using an expletive on social networking site Twitter that was directed at the governing body.

Baines has been on excellent form so far this season as Everton have made a flying start, sitting pretty in fourth place in the Premier League table. 

20-year-old Liverpool centre-midfielder Jonjo Shelvey has been called up to the senior squad after an impressive start to the season, although it is likely that he will not feature in the oncoming matches. 

Roy Hodgson's men will be expected to win by a bare minimum of five goals against a country whose population is only 32,404, just over a third of the size of Wembley. They showed no signs of improvement in their 6-0 defeat at home to Montenegro in their first qualification match and have scored just 19 goals in their 114-game history, conceding 473.  

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