There will be few fans who expect San Marino, FIFA’s joint lowest ranked international team, to trouble England tonight when the two teams kick off tonight at 8pm. It is a tricky tie for England, a chance for manager Roy Hodgson to perhaps tinker with his squad as they keep one eye on their next game on Wednesday against Poland.
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Speaking yesterday, Hodgson said, “We have a very important [World Cup qualifying] game in Poland on Tuesday, so of course a lot of my thoughts are how best to use my squad. I know whatever team I choose at Wembley is likely to win the game.”
San Marino have never won away from home in World Cup Qualifiers and you will find better odds on finding the yeti than San Marino managing a win tonight. With 90 000 fans due in Wembley to watch England, fans will be expecting to see their side win by a decent margin. San Marino’s performances have been particularly miserable on their travels, having conceded eight to both Hungary and Finland in 2010 and a whopping 11 in Holland last year.
Without much chance of a win, the visitors will have to content themselves with the chance of becoming the next Davide Gualtieri, the man who scored after just eight seconds the last time these teams met in 1993.
England have several key players unavailable with Wayne Rooney stepping in for injured captain Steven Gerard. Rooney will be keen for England to win well after their disappointing draw against Ukraine made their upcoming fixture with Poland a must win game if they are to win their group.
Skipper Steven Gerrard and first-choice right-back Glen Johnson are both suspended, while Frank Lampard has been ruled out of Friday’s game with injury and Ashley Cole could sit this one out.
Leighton Baines could continue at left-back meaning Cole will be unable to win his 100th cap next week. Kyle Walker can expect to fill the other full-back slot in the absence of Johnson. In midfield there may be opportunities for the United pairing of Michael Carrick and Tom Cleverley as Gerrard and Lampard are unavailable.
In attack, Jermain Defoe will have hoped to partner Rooney but Danny Welbeck has been preferred and the in form Spurs man joins Andy Carroll and Theo Walcott on the bench hoping to get on for as long as possible in what is expected to be a goal fest.
Ones to watch:
England – This will be Wayne Rooney’s first competitive match as captain and it is a fantastic opportunity for the 26 year old to prove his credentials as Gerard’s heir apparent. Rooney has already stated his belief that an early goal for England will be key, can the Manchester Utd forward lead from the front?
San Marino – San Marino defender Davide Simoncini will have a tough time when he comes up against the England forward line. Simoncini will need to play the game of his life to help his twin sibling, Aldo Simoncini, as he takes up his unenviable position between the sticks and looks to limit the goalscoring opportunities of the likes of Rooney and co.
England 6-0 San Marino
There should be goals aplenty for England, however they are not always able to capitalise and take advantage of weaker opponents. Hodgson will also be looking to shepherd his side to a confidence boosting win without gaining any key injuries. Leads will be protected and peripheral players will get a run out so it is unlikely that they will score more than seven tonight.
England: Hart, Walker, Jagielka, Cahill, Baines, Walcott, Cleverly, Carrick, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Rooney, Welbeck
San Marino: Somincini, A, Gasperoni, Simoncini, D, Vitaioli, F, Della Valle, Coppini, Vitaioli, M, Cervellini, Rinaldi, Marani, Rosti