England vs. San Marino: 6 Things We Learned at Wembley in Easy 5-0 Win
England picked up their second victory in qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil with a routine, straight-forward 5-0 win over San Marino.
Despite the away side—the lowest FIFA-ranked nation in Europe—packing the defence for the entire 90 minutes and vary rarely venturing over the halfway line, England managed to find a way through five times in the final hour of the match.
Wayne Rooney scored a penalty after Danny Welbeck was brought down, and Welbeck himself scored the second moments later. The duo repeated the trick in the second half to double the lead, before Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain scored his first international goal for five.
Here are six things we learned from the match.
Wayne Rooney: Well on His Way to Being England's Highest Scorer Ever
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Wayne Rooney scored twice against San Marino to move into fifth position in England's list of all-time goal scorers.
His new tally of 31, scored in 77 international appearances, lifts him above the likes of Alan Shearer, Nat Lofthouse and Tom Finney who all hit 30 for England.
At just 26 years of age, Rooney will surely have his sights set on becoming England's top scorer of all time at some point over the next four or five seasons—a record currently held by Bobby Charlton, who scored 49 times.
Rooney actually needs to improve his average goals-per-calendar-year for England a little to make sure he reaches the 50-mark.
He has scored an average of three goals per year since he started playing for his country which means he'd need more than another six years to reach the target—and at 32, he'd be pushing it, perhaps, to still be involved regularly with the national team.
San Marino: Should They Really Be Playing World Cup Qualifiers?
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San Marino are woeful.
An awful, awful football team—but it's not their fault. They are a small principality, with a population of only around 30,000 people to choose from and only one of their players is a professional, playing for a fourth-tier Italian team.
Should they really be expected to contend with England? Or even a Latvia, or Macedonia? These countries all have professional leagues, professional players.
San Marino's all-time football record reads just one solitary win from 115 matches.
Is there really any point in them sitting on the edge of their penalty box for an hour and a half, game after game?
Roy Hodgson Needs to Move Away from His 4-4-2
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To accommodate two central strikers against weak opposition, Roy Hodgson switched from the 4-2-3-1 he had employed in the first two qualifying matches. He went for his usual 4-4-2—not a great tactical switch, in truth, as the wide midfielders and full-backs were able to be pushed high up the pitch for the entire 90 minutes against San Marino.
The 4-4-2, though, will not help England against better opposition.
Surely after all the years and disappointments, the powers that be will have learned that England do not possess the midfielders to play two centrally with two up front contributing little behind the halfway line?
It didn't matter in the slightest against San Marino, but Poland are a decent side at home and will test Hodgson's men if they play a similar formation.
Emerging Youngsters Continue to Offer Hope
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Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain scored his first goal, Jonjo Shelvey made his international debut, Kyle Walker made a competitive start and Danny Welbeck added two goals to his tally. From the point of view of cultivating the next generation of England internationals, it was a good night for the nation.
England genuinely have a troop of quality young players who could form a very good international team at their disposal and giving them more opportunities to shine, and even just get used to the international environment, is paramount to their continued development.
Whether or not any of them remain in the side for the fixture in Poland remains to be seen, but they can be largely satisfied with having played a role in England's World Cup qualification campaign regardless.
Jermain Defoe Must Be Fed Up
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You have to wonder how Jermain Defoe is taking the latest snub.
Having started both of England's matches last month against Moldova (where he scored) and Ukraine (where he had a perfectly good goal disallowed), he was against San Marino, a team which all goal-scoring forwards want to play against, left on the bench and ignored as a substitute in favour of Andy Carroll.
With 51 caps and 17 goals, Defoe is definitely a senior member of the squad, but only against Ukraine last month did he finally complete 90 minutes for England for the first time.
He has started the domestic season in fine form too, scoring four league goals already, and must have been itching for the chance to play against such poor opposition.
Defoe will hope to be involved against Poland but must be wondering why he bothers putting effort in one game when he knows he'll be left out at the very next opportunity.
The Result Was Expected, but England Have Taken Another Step to Qualifying
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England won't win any plaudits for beating the worst team in Europe 5-0; it was an expected result, and they merely achieved what was more or less the minimum requirement.
However, it is another three points down the road toward qualification which look rather more important and impressive when considered alongside the other result of the group; Ukraine were held to a 0-0 draw in Moldova.
That means if England can beat Poland and move onto 10 points next week, they could be up to five points clear already at the top of the group—Ukraine have a home match against unbeaten Montenegro in the other pertinent game.
Even at this relatively early stage in qualification, that is a large lead to open up which might be insurmountable for the other three sides hoping to steal a qualifying spot.