England vs. San Marino: Preview, Team News and Projected Lineups
As foregone conclusions go in European football, a home fixture against San Marino has to be up there as one of the most predictable results going.
The tiny republic of just 32,000 people are one of world football's minnows, ranked 207th in the world between the Turks and Caicos Islands and Bhutan.
They travel to face England at Wembley on Friday in a World Cup qualifier for which anything less than a resounding home win will be seen as a failure for their hosts.
Coming off the back of a disappointing 1-1 draw with Ukraine last time out and plenty of off-field controversy, England could certainly do with putting their visitors to the sword.
Here is a preview of Friday's Group H qualifier.
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England and San Marino have played each other twice before.
As you might expect, both matches ended in big victories for England—a 6-0 win at Wembley in February 1993 was followed by a 7-1 rout back in Bologna in November of that year.
Mind you, that second match remains the high point in the history of the San Marino national team, as it began with Davide Gualtieri scoring for the home side after just 8.3 seconds.
It remains the fastest goal in the history of World Cup competition.
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If you go by the rule that a defeat on a penalty shootout is marked down as a draw then England have not lost since a 3-2 friendly defeat to Netherlands in February.
That loss proved to be Fabio Capello's last match in charge, and his successor Roy Hodgson has presided over a nine-match unbeaten run, which includes wins over Belgium, Sweden and Italy—a summer friendly which was scant revenge for their shootout defeat to the same opponents at Euro 2012.
San Marino, by contrast, have won just won one match. Ever. That came against Liechtenstein in 2004, a 1-0 win courtesy of Andy Selva's goal.
If there were any hope for those cheering on the country which covers just 24 square miles, it was in the match before last month's 6-0 mauling at home to Montenegro in which they scored twice against Malta only to lose 3-2.
England's Off-Field Problems
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While everything has more or less gone well for England on the pitch since Capello's departure back in the spring, the build-up for this match has been somewhat troublesome.
In the last few weeks alone we saw John Terry retire from international football, on the eve of his FA hearing, when he was found guilty on charges of racially abusing a fellow professional.
That judgement prompted an outraged tweet from Ashley Cole, in which he had some choice words for the FA after their independent panel questioned his evidence in the Terry case. Cole, two caps away from reaching 100 international appearances, has since apologised and is available for selection.
A subplot of that whole affair was Hodgson's decision to leave Rio Ferdinand out of his Euro 2012 squad for "footballing reasons," a decision which was offered up for fresh examination last week when the England manager spoke to fans on the tube and let slip that there was not much chance of the Manchester United centre-back earning a recall on his next squad.
None of these issues are likely to have an effect on the result on Friday, but they are certain to dominate the agenda before and after what should be a comfortable win for Hodgson and his players.
New Faces on England Squad
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With injuries forcing the withdrawal of left-back Kieran Gibbs and possibly midfielder Frank Lampard, there are some notable new faces on Hodgson's latest squad.
Chelsea left-back Ryan Bertrand earned another call-up, having already made two substitute appearances since Euro 2012, while Liverpool midfielder Jonjo Shelvey has earned his first place among the senior squad. So to has Fraser Forster, the Celtic goalkeeper.
Other players which raised eyebrows include Stoke defender Ryan Shawcross—who gets his first call-up since his tackle broke Aaron Ramsey's leg in February 2010—and winger Aaron Lennon, who is joining the squad for the first time since the 2010 World Cup.
Goalkeepers: Fraser Forster (Celtic), Joe Hart (Manchester City), John Ruddy (Norwich)
Defenders: Leighton Baines (Everton), Ryan Bertrand (Chelsea), Gary Cahill (Chelsea), Ashley Cole (Chelsea), Phil Jagielka (Everton), Glen Johnson (Liverpool), Joleon Lescott (Manchester City), Ryan Shawcross (Stoke), Kyle Walker (Tottenham)
Midfielders: Michael Carrick (Manchester United), Tom Cleverley (Manchester United), Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), Adam Johnson (Sunderland), Aaron Lennon (Tottenham), Frank Lampard (Chelsea), James Milner (Manchester City), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal), Jonjo Shelvey (Liverpool), Theo Walcott (Arsenal)
Forwards: Andy Carroll (West Ham), Jermain Defoe (Tottenham), Wayne Rooney (Manchester United), Danny Welbeck (Manchester United)
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England: Joe Hart; Kyle Walker, Phil Jagielka, Joleon Lescott, Leighton Baines; Theo Walcott, Tom Cleverley, Michael Carrick, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain; Wayne Rooney, Jermain Defoe.
San Marino: Aldo Simoncini; Fabio Vitaioli, Davide Simoncini, Alessandro Della Valle, Cristian Brolli; Matteo Coppini; Michele Cervellini, Alex Gasperoni; Matteo Vitaioli, Danilo Rinaldi, Manuel Marani.