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10th October 2012

By BEN HOLT

On Friday, England face the joint lowest ranked national team in world football in a World Cup qualifier at Wembley. According to the fine people at FIFA, alongside the Turks and Caicos Islands, and Bhutan, San Marino are the very worst, and while the international governing body of football often come under scrutiny for grave errors in judgement, there is no reason to believe this ranking is a miscalculation.

 

“We have to show them respect”, insists Tottenham’s flying right-back Kyle Walker. And by that I assume he means not taunting them when England are winning 7-0.

 

In qualification for Euro 2012, San Marino lost every match, including 11-0 to Holland and a couple of 8-0s. They also failed to score a goal in that campaign. They have in their history only won one game: a 1-0 victory over Liechtenstein in 2004.

 

In truth, their existence as a football nation is remarkable. San Marino has a population of just over 30,000, and the national team includes among others: a barman, an accountant, and several students. It’s almost as if they’ve won a competition to play England at Wembley. Imagine that! Cleaning tables one night, and then playing football in front of 90,000 people the next! It makes me wish that I were from a teeny tiny country where there were only ten other people who knew what football was. Although even then I might have trouble getting selected for the national team!

 

Anyway, back to Kyle Walker’s “respect”. Fair enough. He’s got to say these things, and who remembers when San Marino took the lead against England eight seconds into that 1993 World Cup qualifier (which England went on to win 7-1)?! But that won’t happen again.

 

The scoreline on Friday will be an irrelevance. 3-0, 5-0, 10-0, 15-0; it doesn’t matter. This is a match for those young Sammarinese players to chase around Gerrard, Lampard and Walcott for an hour and half. And then wildly compete to swap shirts with Rooney.

 

But wouldn’t it be nice to knock eight or nine past them; maybe even double figures. England always seem to keep the score down to five or six when playing vastly inferior opposition. Perhaps that’s out of respect, or the team’s reluctance to overexert themselves when the game is already won.

 

My greed for goals is nothing personal against the San Marino team. I don’t wish to embarrass or humiliate them, nor do I think a crushing victory will add a great deal of confidence to the England players in preparation for the Poland game. I’d just like to see it on paper. 10-0 to England.

 

Is that too much to ask?

 

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