England Faces Lowest Ranked Team in WC Qualifiers

Last updated: March 24, 2021 by Leon Marshal

Game details

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Kick-off: Thursday, 19:45
Venue: Wembley
Coverage: Sky Sports
Home Form: WLWLW
Away Form: LLDLD
Last Meeting: San Marino 0 – 6 England
Competition: FIFA World Cup Qualifiers

The road to Qatar begins as England face San Marino at Wembley Stadium. The Three Lions have won all six games against their visitors, scoring at least five goals in each. Two hundred places separate the two sides in the FIFA ranking indicating the big gulf in quality between them. La Serenissima will be looking for their first competitive points ever.

The three Lions, on paper at least, will have an easy start to their World Cup 2022 qualifiers against San Marino. This game begins a three-game cycle where they face Albania (March 28) and Poland at Wembley (March 31). England has a reputation of being ruthless in qualifiers for major tournaments under Gareth Southgate, with sides like San Marino, the type of team they love playing. The Englishmen won seven of the eight Euro 2020 qualifiers to top their group, five-points clear of the Czech Republic. They had an impressive eight wins and two draws in the qualifiers campaign for the 2018 World Cup.

This fixture is a chance for a flying start to the qualification campaign and an opportunity to build momentum in the upcoming scheduled fixtures as they aim to top the group. The group winners earn automatic qualification, and England will undoubtedly be eyeing Poland, who have Robert Lewandoski in their ranks, as their most realistic competition for the top spot. England is a team that has failed to perform against the top sides but have been consistent bullies against the lesser sides and will most likely continue in the same trend.

Despite the absence of Tammy Abraham, Jordan Pickford and Jack Grealish through injury, England has a plethora of talent at its disposal. Maiden call-ups for Aston Villa’s Ollie Watkins, West Brom’s Sam Johnstone will be playing alongside wonderkid Jude Bellingham, who plays his football at Borussia Dortmund. Jesse Lingard has been impressive for West Ham since making his loan move; scoring five and assisting two in the seven games for the London side is an interesting inclusion. John Stones and Luke Shaw have also got the nod back to the side while Marcus Rashford joins the squad despite his foot injury.

The Man City quadruple (Sterling, Walker, Foden, Stones), who are on an impressive run, will be expected to bring a winning mentality to the team as they look at the big picture of preparing for this year’s Euros and the World Cup a year later. Southgate has to find a working system to challenge the big teams if he desires to win a trophy and outdo his greatest achievement so far, which was a fourth-place finish in the World Cup.

San Marino are the minnows of Group 1, and with all due respect to them, few will expect them to be anything more than cannon fodder for the other teams. It is a tough ask for them to disappoint the World Cup semi-finalists, against whom they have lost all six previous meetings by a 37 – 1 aggregate scoreline. They did not collect a single point in their Euro 2020 qualifiers, conceding fifty-one goals and scoring just one. They lost 9 – 0 to Belgium and Russia at home, lost 6 – 0 to Scotland, 5 – 0 to Cyprus and 4 – 0 to Kazakhstan. They, however, performed better by their standards in the UEFA Nations League with two draws against Gibraltar and Liechtenstein. They will have the fresher legs as their opponents have been on hectic schedules, especially with many of the England players involved in Champions League & Europa League action.

The La Serenissima will be playing for pride as a team that played their first-ever official game in the Euro qualifier in 1990 and was beaten 4 – 0 by Switzerland. They have competed in every qualifier for the World Cup and Euros since then but are yet to win a match. The best performance was a 1 – 1 draw against Latvia in 2001. They have only won just a single match in their short history, beating Liechtenstein 1 – 0 in a friendly match. A side that bottoms the FIFA ranking concede an average of 4.2 goals per match, with their biggest deficit a 13 – 0 hammering by Germany. They face fierce opposition to whom they have conceded five goals or more in all their games. It is worth remembering that many of this team are part-time professionals who juggle day jobs with playing football. Their only goal scorers in recent times, Matteo Vitaioli, Mirko Palazzi, and Filippo Berardi, could line up against England. Elia Benedettini, who plays for Italian third division side Cesena and teammate Nicola Nanni, are the team’s most experienced players.

While San Marino struggles for goals, Davide Gualtieri famously took 8.3 seconds to score the only goal they have ever scored against England in 1993; it remained the fastest goal scored in International football for 24 years until Christian Benteke scored in 8.1 seconds against Gibraltar in 2017.

Team News

Jesse Lingard is an exciting selection scoring five and assisting two in the seven games since making his loan move to London.

Watkins, Johnstone, and Bellingham could make their competitive debuts for the Three Lions.

San Marino has lost all six previous meetings against the Three Lions by a 37 – 1 aggregate score.

The lowest-ranked team in the FIFA World Cup raking has never won a competitive game since their first match in 1990.

Expected Line-Ups:

England (3-4-2-1): Pope, Walker, Coady, Mings, Shaw, Rice, Mount, Bellingham, Lingard, Calvert-Lewin
Subs: Johnstone, Pope, Chilwell, Dier, James, Maguire, Kane, Foden, Phillips, Ward-Prowse
Injured: Rashford
Doubtful: Saka
Not available:
San Marino (4-2-3-1): Benedettini, Brolli, Simoncini, Rossi, Palazzi, Lunadei, Golinucci, Tomassini, Hirsch, Berardi, Nanni
Subs: Stimac, Alessabdro, Vitaioli, Battistini, Ceccaroli, Manuel, Grandoni, Giardi, Zonzini, Mularoni
Not available:

  • England and San Marino have played just six games, with England winning all six games.
  • The Three Lions have been brutal against their opposition, scoring five or more goals in all their games and conceding just once.
  • Gareth Southgate has World Cup Qualification on his mind but will likely feature an experimental side to prepare to face Poland, a serious threat to their ambitions of topping the group.
  • San Marino’s only goal scorers, Matteo Vitaioli, Mirko Palazzi, and Filippo Berardi, could all line up.

Head to Head

Last 5 meetings between the two sides
Date Competition Game Result First Goal-scorer
05/09/2015 Euro Qualifiers San Marino 0 – 6 England Rooney 13′
09/10/2014 Euro Qualifiers England 5 – 0 San Marino Jagielka 25′
22/03/2013 World Cup Qualifiers San Marino 0 – 8 England Defoe 35′
12/10/2012 World Cup Qualifiers England 5 – 0 San Marino Rooney 35′
17/11/1993 World Cup Qualifiers San Marino 1 – 7 England Gualtieri 1′

Conclusion & Betting Tips

England is so overwhelmingly favourites for this game that most bookmakers offer correct score betting of 14-0 and above. However, you fancy that Gareth Southgate may field an experimental side with his mind on tougher fixtures ahead, especially the fixture with Poland on the horizon.

It’s hard to put a compelling case for anything other than a heavy defeat for San Marino in this fixture. Recent draws against Liechtenstein and Gibraltar are signs of progress, but England should prove to be a much tougher challenge. Their game plan will be to restrict the scoreline and frustrate the Three Lions; it’s a tactic that will be difficult to maintain for ninety minutes, though.

Finding value in this game is tough. It wouldn’t surprise us to see Jese Lingard among the goals to repay his recall, but with odds as low as 4/11 to score anytime and just 9/2 to score a hattrick, it is best to look at other options. Jude Bellingham is one to watch; he became England’s youngest ever player to represent England’s under 21’s and scored on his debut in a 6-0 win over Kosovo in September. The 17-year old is 8/15 to score anytime with bet365, with two or more goals priced @ 11/5.