WITH an international goals-per-game ratio only a little better than Emile Heskey’s seven strikes in 62 appearances for England, it takes San Marino an average of exactly six matches to score.
But despite managing to put the ball in an opponent’s net on just 19 occasions in 114 fixtures, the tiny nation can still lay claim to one of the game’s more famous goals.
It came after a mere 8.3 seconds the last time San Marino played the Three Lions, back on Wednesday 17 November 1993 – a date that current Under-21s boss Stuart Pearce will never forget.
His soft backpass was pounced upon by Davide Gualtieri to score what remains the quickest goal ever in a World Cup match of any description before England replied with seven unanswered strikes.
The chances of San Marino adding to their ‘for’ column versus England any time soon look slim. When the sides are reunited at a sell-out Wembley tonight, Joe Hart is as short as 1/20 to keep a clean sheet.
The best price on a home win is 1/100 and the clearest indication of England’s anticipated dominance is with Sporting Index, who have priced England’s supremacy spread at 6.8 to 7.1.
Bang in the middle of that prediction, the 7-0 scoreline seems a fairly accurate one. It is on offer at 8/1 with Coral and it may be worth backing that and 6-0, at 6/1, the same result San Marino achieved last time at Wembley.
San Marino are the whipping boys of world football and ranked joint last by Fifa, in 207th place, alongside Bhutan and the Turks and Caicos Islands. Considering that, a higher margin of victory is certainly possible, but Roy Hodgson will be keeping one eye on Tuesday’s trip to Warsaw.
Poland will provide strong competition in Group H and Hodgson won’t want to risk anything ahead of that contest.
He may use this game to look at some alternatives to his strongest XI. He certainly has to make do without Frank Lampard, who pulled out of the squad along with teammate Ryan Bertrand yesterday, as well as suspended Liverpool duo Glen Johnson and captain Steven Gerrard.
Furthermore, Jermain Defoe, Joleon Lescott and James Milner are all sat one booking away from picking up a ban.
Hodgson will, though, start Wayne Rooney and with a number of experienced players unavailable the Manchester United man has been handed the armband.
Don’t expect him to play 90 minutes, but if Rooney starts he should still have plenty of time to find the back of the net.
Rooney is as good a choice as anyone to score first, at 2/1 with Coral. If he manages two or more then he will move above Tom Finney, Nat Lofthouse and Alan Shearer – all of whom retired on 30 goals – to fifth in the country’s all-time leading scorers list.
In the two previous fixtures against the Sammarinese an England player has netted four goals: David Platt on home soil and Ian Wright in the 7-1 away win. A Rooney hat-trick is a tempting 5/1 with Paddy Power.
I think the hosts are likely to come out of the traps quickly and strike early. Selling the time of the first match goal at 15 minutes with Sporting Index is advised.
Elsewhere, Scotland and Wales have it all to do if they are going to escape Group A.
A 6-1 defeat in Serbia and 2-0 reverse at home to Belgium have left any hopes Wales had of reaching Brazil hanging by a thread.
Although undefeated from their two games, Craig Levein’s men would have wanted to yield more than home draws with Macedonia and Serbia.
But the Scots won 3-1 when the sides last met, at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium last summer, and they should prove too strong once again. Back the visitors at 17/10 with Coral.
England to win 6-0 at 6/1 and 7-0 at 8/1 with Coral
Wayne Rooney to score first at 2/1 with Coral
Sell time of first match goal at 15 with Sporting Index
Scotland to beat Wales at 17/10 with Coral