Expect one-way traffic and plenty of goals when England host San Marino at Wembley on Thursday (19:45 BST, live on ITV1).
Roy Hodgson’s side began their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign with an impressive 2-0 win away to Switzerland last month. England and the Swiss are the favourites to qualify from a group that also features San Marino, Estonia, Lithuania and Slovenia.
England’s disappointing World Cup campaign was followed by an uninspiring 1-0 friendly victory at home to Norway. Hodgson was, however, able to gain some breathing room with the win in Switzerland. England had less possession and shots than their hosts, but they triumphed thanks to two second-half strikes from Danny Welbeck (pictured).
The majority of the World Cup squad still remain in Hodgson’s plans, but he has made a few interesting additions in the wake of England’s group-stage exit in Brazil. Fabian Delph was energetic, if a little over-exuberant, in his full debut against Switzerland, while Southampton full-back Nathaniel Clyne and Swansea midfielder Jonjo Shelvey have now been called up.
England used a diamond midfield in the win over Switzerland and the experiment was generally quite successful. Raheem Sterling was given the same freedom to drift across the attacking midfield line that he often enjoys at Liverpool, while the midfielders soon worked out their positioning after a shaky start. Welbeck’s pace was always a threat on the counter.
Hodgson has left the injured Daniel Sturridge and Phil Jones out of his squad for this match and the trip to Estonia on Sunday. John Stones was replaced by Calum Chambers after suffering an ankle injury in Everton’s defeat to Manchester United on Sunday.
San Marino began their qualifying campaign with a 2-0 defeat at home to Lithuania. They were comfortably out-possessed by their visitors and failed to muster a single effort on target throughout the match. It was their 59th consecutive defeat in full internationals.
In February, Pierangelo Manzaroli took on the unenviable task of leading San Marino through the qualification process. He replaced the long-standing coach Giampaolo Mazza, who, in amongst the numerous defeats of his 15 years at the helm, led San Marino to their first ever full international victory in a friendly against Liechtenstein in 2004.
San Marino is the second-smallest of the nations registered with UEFA and Manzaroli unsurprisingly has few resources to work with. His squad is made up entirely of domestic-based players, the majority of whom are semi-professionals. He was, though, able to take at least some encouragement from a win and a draw against local club sides earlier this year.
38-year old Andy Selva is the nation’s all-time top scorer, with eight goals in 66 appearances, and will captain the side. The defence features three players with over 30 caps to their name, while goalkeeper Aldo Simoncini has just under 40. There are, though, sprinklings of youth throughout the squad, with 11 players aged between 19 and 24.
England v San Marino Betting Tips
England and San Marino were also paired in qualification for the 2014 World Cup. England were comfortable victors in both matches, winning 5-0 at home and 8-0 away in San Marino. The only other previous meetings came in qualification for the 1994 World Cup. England again won both matches by 6-0 at home and 7-1 away. It is little wonder the bookies rate England 1/100 ‘certainties’ to win this match in the betting odds.
England began their qualification campaign with a good win away to the group’s other strong side and should have few problems taking one of the two automatic qualifying berths from here. They ran up big scores on both occasions they faced San Marino in the World Cup qualifiers and can be expected to produce a similarly comprehensive victory now.
San Marino will come into the match with the intention of keeping the score down as much as possible, while also seeking opportunities to score a rare goal against one of Europe’s stronger teams. They are 100/1 with the bookmakers to win this game and another thrashing does seem the most likely outcome.
- Back England -6 goals @ 21/20 with Betfred or Boylesports. Your stake is returned if they win by six goals exactly, while a victory by seven or more goals sees the bet pay out.
- Welbeck’s two goals in the victory over Switzerland were his first at international level for just over a year. He has, however, also made a good start to his Arsenal career, scoring once in the league and three times in their Champions League victory over Galatasaray. Back Danny Welbeck to score two or more goals @ best odds of evens with Ladbrokes.