There is little doubt that England will maintain their 100% record in Euro 2016 qualifying with a comfortable victory away to minnows San Marino on Saturday (17:00 BST live on ITV1).
England are undefeated in 10 internationals since their disappointing early exit from last summer’s World Cup in Brazil. They top Euro 2016 qualification Group E with a perfect record of 18 points, with six wins out of as many matches.
Roy Hodgson’s side emerged victorious from an entertaining and high-scoring encounter away to Slovenia in their last international in June. They went behind just before half-time but fought back to lead 2-1 going in the final 10 minutes thanks to a double from Jack Wilshere. Their hosts then equalised, only for Wayne Rooney to score a late winner.
It is highly likely that England will confirm their place at Euro 2016 during the current international break, which sees them host Switzerland on Tuesday following their trip to San Marino on Saturday. Once that is sorted, Hodgson’s primary task will be to whittle down his selections over the past year or so into a coherent squad for next summer’s tournament.
In-form Swansea midfielder Jonjo Shelvey and Tottenham Hotspur’s Ryan Mason are the main novelties in Hodgson’s 22-man squad for this month’s fixtures, for which he is without the injured Wilshere, Danny Welbeck, Jordan Henderson and Phil Jones. Spurs striker Harry Kane (pictured) and the Manchester United duo of Luke Shaw and Michael Carrick return to the squad.
San Marino are intimately acquainted with the lower reaches of tournament qualification groups and are positioned at the bottom of Group E, with one point from a single draw and five defeats. Their goal difference is 19 in the negative.
Pierangelo Manzaroli’s side held out for the opening half-hour of their loss away to Estonia in June, before eventually falling to a 2-0 defeat against the side who sit fourth in the group. While they were comfortably out-possessed and out-shot, they did manage a couple of efforts on target and performed solidly given the limits of their talent base.
Manzaroli replaced long-standing coach Giampaolo Mazza at the start of the qualification process and can take some pride from having ended the country’s 61-match international losing streak by drawing 0-0 at home to Estonia last November. Given the size of the country and the resources at his disposal that represented a highly significant achievement.
San Marino’s last goal in a competitive international came back in September 2013 and they are therefore unlikely to pose much of a threat to the England defence on Saturday. Andy Selva is their all-time top goalscorer, with eight in 68 appearances, but no other current player has scored more than once for the national team.
San Marino vs England Preview’s Betting Tips
England have won all five of the previous meetings between these sides, at an aggregate score of 31-1. They were comfortable 5-0 victors at Wembley last October and also triumphed 5-0 at home and 8-0 away during the qualification process for the 2014 World Cup. San Marino’s solitary goal against England came in a 7-1 home defeat back in 1993.
Even on home soil, San Marino’s primary goal on Saturday will be to keep the score down as much as possible. They have been well organised under Manzaroli’s command and while defeat is inevitable they will hope to limit England to less than the five-goal minimum they have scored against them in each of the previous five meetings between the sides.
England’s place at Euro 2016 will be confirmed if they win on Saturday and Slovenia fail to win away to Switzerland a couple of hours later. Given the gulf in quality between the sides, the three points are already all but assured – as reflected by a best price of 1/80 for an England victory with Paddy Power – and it is only the margin of victory that is up for debate.
Despite the disparity between the two sides there is still a punting angle and these are our preview’s betting tips:
- Back England -5 on a standard Handicap @ best odds of 6/5 with Bet365. The bet pays out if England win by six or more goals.
- Kane has not had the best start to the season at club level and will view this match as an excellent opportunity to get a couple of goals under his belt. He scored on his international debut against Lithuania in March and can be fancied to add to his tally on Saturday. Back “Harry Kane to score two or more goals” @ best odds of 11/10 with Ladbrokes or SkyBet.