What Will England Gain from San Marino Game?

England’s third qualifying match for the 2014 World Cup kicks off at 8pm at Wembley Stadium with England moving to 7 points at full-time.

Yes, with disrespect to the joint-last country in the FIFA World Rankings, alongside Buthan and the Turks and Caicos Islands, San Marino are literally turning up to enjoy playing on the Wembley surface in front of a large number of fans to be embarrassed for 90 minutes.

Most bookmakers are expecting a 6-0 victory for the host side. I wouldn’t be surprised if it finishes 10-0 to be honest. That said, after England flew out to an early lead in Moldova the players seemed almost happy to sit on the scoreline in the second half.

Wayne Rooney has been announced to captain England fro the start for the first time in his career. A proud achievement for anyone. Perhaps something to spur the striker onto a scoring spree in this match.

Frank Lampard who enjoys scoring from midfield and leads the England goalscorers with 3 coming into this match has been ruled out through injury, whilst Steven Gerrard is suspended. A chance for some lesser-experienced midfielders to get a run out. With the exception of a great strike against Newcastle, Tom Cleverley has been poor in front of goal this season.

I’d like to see Theo Walcott, Jonjo Shelvey and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain get a run out in an attacking formation although perhaps I’m setting up our players to fail in the future by giving two relatively newbies an easy experience at international level. Victory in Poland is important on Tuesday.

So what can England gain from this home qualifier? Apart from 3 points to set up nicely in the group going into match 4, there’s genuinely very little. I’m anticipating an unspectacular match in which I’m calling for the full-time whistle after 30 minutes. Wayne Rooney’s leadership perhaps worth keeping an eye on, but it’s not like he’s being asked to pull a team through a tough fixture.

Giving the youngsters a cap is all well and good, but I do not see what they’re going to gain from this match. Playing at Wembley Stadium in front of a large crowd maybe something, but it’s not like there’s going to be any pressure on the players or boos being hounded in their direction.

Ukraine kick off in Moldova an hour ahead of England’s game to give us a chance to scout them. There is a 4pm game and a couple of 5pm games to look at too, a couple of short-odd betting opportunities (Ukraine, Germany) but otherwise I am already looking ahead to Tuesday and competitive football.

A few stats on San Marino:

  • England are 1 of only 12 nations to concede a goal to San Marino in qualifiers.
  • San Marino’s goalkeeper Aldo Simoncini has conceded 114 goals in 24 international appearances (4.75 per game).
  • The number of cumulative goals scored by San Marino during their World Cup qualifying campaigns.
  • It’s more than 8 years since San Marino avoided defeat in an international fixture of any kind.
  • San Marino are on a 47-game losing streak, conceding 210 goals during that spell.
  • San Marino’s record defeat is 13-0 by Germany on 6 September 2006 for anyone keeping score – Lukas Podolski scored 4 & Thomas Hitzlsperger 2 that day.
  • San Marino have only scored in 6 of their last 47 matches.
  • Malta are the only nation to concede more than 1 goal in a single game vs San Marino since Liechtenstein in 2003.