The last time England met San Marino came in a qualifier for the 1994 World Cup that ended 7-1 in the Three Lions’ favour.
Sadly, almost two decades later, San Marino’s position on the global scale hasn’t improved, and England were expected to send the visitors packing from Wembley in a very comfortable position.
However, in order to do so, Roy Hodgson still needed his men to perform on the night. While the 5-0 demolition was very much a team effort, certain individuals will have stuck out for the right—or wrong—reasons.
Each of England’s stars have been given a rating out of 10 based solely on Friday’s display.
The word one could use to describe Joe Hart’s involvement on Friday evening could easily be “non-existent,” but that could infer that England’s No. 1 did perhaps more than he actually did.
In all seriousness, there’s not many games, let alone World Cup qualifiers, where the Manchester City star will get more of a rest than he did against San Marino.
The nation that FIFA rank as 207th in the world came to London playing five at the back and only one up front—pretty much dismissing any chances to actually attack.
They say the best form of offence is a good defence. Going on San Marino’s display against England, it isn’t
San Marino’s packed defence meant that opposition was difficult for Kyle Walker to come by and the Tottenham flyer had almost free rein down his right flank.
Linking up well with Theo Walcott and later Spurs teammate Aaron Lennon, Walker made full use of the chance afforded to him by Hodgson in his first World Cup qualifier and was a useful asset in attack.
Tasked with close to nothing in terms of defence, the 22-year-old, like so many others on Friday, had an easy day at the office and made use of the freedom when attacking.
Even when facing weaker opposition, centre-backs are usually those players that stay back regardless, making sure of the clean sheet rather than putting their defence at risk.
However, San Marino’s strength in attack was so minimal that the offensively minded Gary Cahill took the opportunity to realise his dream of playing as a striker for long periods, choosing to play more in the opposition’s third than his own.
Perhaps it wasn’t that extreme, but Cahill did choose to leave defending duties to his centre-back partner most of the time, although he did squander any scoring chance that came his way.
The man that got lumped with the majority of those defending duties, Phil Jagielka had to make sure that England weren’t humiliated on their own patch, something that conceding a goal to San Marino would have meant.
The Everton man has been in fine form this season and didn’t look out of depth on Friday, although you wouldn’t have expected him to.
Calm and assured at the back, Jagielka barely had to break a sweat when facing the opposition’s lacklustre attack, but there wasn’t much special about the display.
With Ashley Cole being omitted thanks to some off-the-pitch antics, it was again the turn of Leighton Baines to pounce on his opportunity and pounce the Everton talisman did.
The general consensus amongst England fans is that, were it not for the presence of Cole, Baines would have notched up a considerable amount of senior caps and he showed that to be true on Friday.
San Marino struggled to compete with the link-up play Baines created with Tom Cleverley and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and created a huge amount of scoring chances off the left wing.
Doing what he does best, Michael Carrick provided a creative paperweight in midfield and simply made sure that his side kept possession in a game that was begging for goals.
The more defensively minded of England’s two central midfielders, Carrick’s job was merely one of securing the ball and allowing those around him to flourish, a job he performed well in.
An all-around safe display.
Tom Cleverley’s influence within the England setup has been somewhat muted so far, meaning that a game against opposition such as San Marino was the perfect chance for the Manchester United to express himself as desired.
With Carrick solidifying the Three Lions’ heart, Cleverley was allowed to push up and effectively performed as a form of trequartista and was very well linked with the striking pair.
Seemingly fulfilling the hopes a lot of England fans were placing on him, Friday was the first real glimpse of Cleverley exercising his creative juices at maximum capacity. The midfielder was unlucky not to get on the scoreboard, but provided two assists.
A disappointing twist on an otherwise encouraging night for English football, Theo Walcott was helped off in the first half after crumpling under a hefty challenge.
Arsenal’s winger tried to carry on but was swiftly taken off for Aaron Lennon and finished his night in the hospital with a chest injury.
Despite his age, the 19-year-old came into his own against San Marino and was one of England’s most promising players in the 5-0 drilling of their miniscule opponents.
The Ox got in on the scoring action with a delightfully curled finish and was a constant threat in provision, putting chance after chance in front of his fellow attackers.
Like Arsenal teammate Theo Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain has all the pace in the world but could still work on his final delivery. He turned in a very good display on Friday, clinching his first international goal in the process.
The nominated Man of the Match, it was Danny Welbeck that thrived as part of the strike pairing more and rewarded Roy Hodgson’s faith with a two-goal contribution.
Besides earning England their penalty to open the scoring, the Manchester United man had a very successful 90 minutes.
Using that tall frame to his advantage, Welbeck was also on hand to create plenty of opportunities for teammates, showing the unselfish nature that so many aspiring strikers tend to lack at times.
Captain of the England side in the absence of Ashley Cole, Rio Ferdinand and the retired John Terry, Wayne Rooney led his side with dignity in their World Cup outing.
The Red Devil set the best possible example by firing his side home from 12 yards before going on to net from even further out and leading from the front.
Rooney was one of the most senior England members on the field and edged that much closer to becoming England’s all-time leading scorer with his two-goal record against San Marino.
Although Theo Walcott originally got the nod, Aaron Lennon staged his claim to be considered more for the role in the future, even if Walcott was fit and healthy.
The Spurs speedster came on in the 10th minute before pinching two assists and becoming a constant danger to the San Marino goal.
Coming on for Wayne Rooney in the 73rd minute, Andy Carroll was stepping into rather big shoes when he finally made his England return against San Marino.
The lanky frontman appears to be thriving in his loan spell at West Ham, and although he didn’t have the longest time to shine, Carroll looked capable in his 15-minute cameo.
While not for lack of trying, Jonjo Shelvey failed to get his name on England’s scoresheet on Friday. The Liverpool youngster came on for Michael Carrick with half an hour to go, and immediately set about firing a number of long-range shots on the San Marino goal.
A more attacking asset than Michael Carrick, Shelvey was impressive for the time that he was on but gave the impression that he was in a rush to chase the result at times when just waiting for the goals to come is sometimes the easier option.