The press have spent the whole week talking about issues off the pitch with both Ashley Cole and John Terry the main talking points. It would be easy to forget that on Friday evening there is a game to be played. Against the mighty San Marino of all teams! One thing is for sure, Wayne Rooney will be tackled by ‘Paolo the Centre Back’ and the commentators will mention that ‘Wazza’ is on about £200,000 a week while Paolo is actually a pig farmer by day and doesn’t really know the rules.
Whatever the result and whoever else retires from international football before the World Cup one thing will remain. It could be worse. Our opponents tomorrow night aren’t the most well-known in international football. In fact the only reason they are known is that they are the perennial whipping boys of any qualifying campaign. With a record of one win and five draws in 114 games, and 473 goals conceded you could forgive San Marino for just not bothering with the trip to Wembley. They are in fact the joint worst team in the world according to Fifa’s rankings. Statistics like that lead to one question. Who on earth did they manage to beat? The footballing powerhouse Liechtenstein were the unlucky side, on the 28th April back in 2004. Surely England won’t be the second team to suffer that embarrassing fate. Will they?
The goalscorer that night is San Marino ‘superstar’ striker Andy Selva. He is the leading goalscorer for his country with 8, however that wasn’t the hardest feat as he is also the only player to have scored more than twice! The 36-year-old is in the squad to face England and will be looking to add to his goal tally against a less than worried Joe Hart and pals.
Selva is back playing his club football in San Marino along with the majority of the squad. Only midfielder Mirko Palazzi is playing outside of their homeland, for third tier Italian side Rimini. In fact one of their players doesn’t even have a club but still got the call up!
So who’s got the job of managing the unmanageable I hear you ask? That man is Giampaolo Mazza, who unbelievably is the longest-serving manager of any European national team, leading the side since 1998. England’s possible debutant Jonjo Shelvey was just 6 years old when Mazza took the position as manager of the worst team in football history!
If England don’t win tomorrow it will be the biggest shock in football since Steve McLaren was seen with his brolly on the touchline, and many will be calling for Roy Hodgson’s head. In fact when Latvia drew with San Marino, their manager at the time, Gary Johnson, resigned due to the humiliation. So poor Roy really is in a lose-lose situation. If we win by a few goals then everyone will say “so we should they are San Marino”, and if the unthinkable happens and we don’t win then Roy may as well get his coat and leave the country for good!
So spare a thought for the travelling fans of La Serenissima when we’re moaning that it’s only 4-0 after an hour, it really could be worse!