Lets not beat about the bush here. This is a match that that England should win by a convincing margin. Minnows. Amateurs. Part-timers. Call them what you like. San Marino are the whipping boys of international football. While the likes of Faroe Islands, Luxembourg and Liechtenstein have improved to at least cause the odd upset in recent years, San Marino have stood still. They have not gone backwards - it’s not possible to go backwards from where they are - just maintained their inferiority at his level.
Not that I’m having a go at the Sammarinese. After all, how much can you really improve with a population of just 32,200 people? That’s probably around 16,000 males, with a large percentage of them being children. It’s an incredibly small pool to choose from.
Frank Lampard has been ruled out of the game with a knee injury and Steven Gerrard is out through suspension, meaning Wayne Rooney will captain the side and Jonjo Shelvey could earn his first England cap. Ryan Bertrand has also withdrawn from the squad with swollen glands after he was called up to replace the injured Kieran Gibbs, while Joleon Lescott and Phil Jagielka are expected to start in the centre of defence following John Terry’s international retirement.
Rimini midfielder Mirko Palazzi is the only San Marino player that does not play in the Sammarinese domestic league, while 36-year-old striker Andy Selva is the country’s top scorer with eight goals and should start the game.
At odds of 1.01 for the win we obviously won’t be suggesting a punt on England to take all three points. Although a 1% return on investment over 90 minutes is better than any rate you’ll get from your high-street bank these days.
San Marino have won only one game in their history and have failed to score in their last 19 competitive matches, and are consequently rated the joint-worst team (along with Bhutan and Turks and Caicos Islands) in international football by FIFA.
Double figures is a distinct possibility. Holland put 11 past San Marino last September, while it is impossible to see the visitors troubling Joe Hart. England -6 goals is a generous 2.20 and looks a great bet.
Having ripped the San Marino side to shreds so far, I will give them some credit for the endeavour with which they start games. In each of their last five competitive fixtures they have conceded fewer first half goals than second-half goals, even holding Sweden to a goalless opening 45 minutes before succumbing 5-0 last September.
The obvious assumption is that fitness is a big factor, and that’s not surprising given the Sammarinese’s part-time status. Firstly, don’t get too concerned about your handicap bet if the scoreline isn’t huge at the interval, and secondly, back the 2.10 about the second half producing more goals than the first.
England’s strikers will be chomping at the bit to get stuck into this game and add to their international goals tally. After all, at the end of a career, a striker’s statistics are not broken down to consider which teams goals were scored against.
Wayne Rooney is the obvious choice to take full advantage. He is priced at odds of just 1.25 to find the back of the net, which is no price to be backing, but I do like the 2.00 about him scoring two or more and the 5.00 that he will get at least a hat-trick. With Lampard and Gerrard not in the side Rooney is sure to be on penalty duty, while chances are certain to be plentiful for the forwards in open play.
England -6 goals @2.20
Rooney to score two or more @ 2.0