San Marino vs. England: 6 Things We Learned from England's 8-0 Victory
England's match with San Marino Friday quickly turned from a must-win World Cup qualifier into a farce, as the Three Lions romped to an 8-0 victory.
The win, coupled with Poland's loss to Ukraine, provided England with a cushion in Group H's second position, six points clear of Ukraine in third.
Meanwhile, Montenegro's victory over Moldova means that the English are still two points behind the relatively new national team with an important match in Podgorica coming up Tuesday.
The quality of San Marino's squad can obviously be called into question after such a drubbing, making it easy to write off England's big win as a product of their opposition.
Hence, it is quite difficult to gauge the Three Lions performance and know what to think about the squad.
So what can one take away from England's 8-0 victory in Serravalle?
Here are six lessons from Friday's big win.
Goal Difference Is in England's Corner
As obvious as it seems, it is worth mentioning that England's 8-0 victory over San Marino all but assures that the Three Lions will have the tiebreak advantage should it come down to that.
Unlike the head-to-head tiebreaks from UEFA competitions, FIFA's first tiebreaker for teams level on points is goal difference throughout the group.
With both England and Montenegro having played San Marino twice, the English have a goal difference of 18 to the Montenegrins' 11.
Should England catch Montenegro, who currently sits two points ahead of them in first, they would likely have to win at least one of the two matches left between the two teams, stretching their lead on goal difference with just four other matches remaining.
Meanwhile, third-placed Ukraine has a goal difference of just one.
Even if the Ukrainians catch England, 17 goals is quite a differential to make up.
Hence, it is highly unlikely for England to finish level on points with any other team without having a higher goal difference.
This is quite a valuable advantage for the Three Lions to have in their back pocket just in case things go wrong over their final five matches.
England Can Rely on Their Young Players...
Friday's match may have been a mismatch of epic proportions, but England's performance against San Marino showed that the young talent on the squad can be depended upon in this run toward the World Cup.
Arsenal winger Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who's just 19 years old, had quite an impact Friday, scoring the second goal and assisting Jermain Defoe on the third.
Meanwhile, 23-year-old Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge had a strong showing off the bench and scored in the second half, while Tottenham's 22-year-old fullback Kyle Walker provided an assist on the final goal.
Of course, there was not much resistance from San Marino throughout the match, but it's a very good sign going forward that the youngsters are finding ways to contribute to goals.
Hopefully, this will build these young players' confidence for the rest of the run to the World Cup and give coach Roy Hodgson reason to trust these players over the next series of matches.
...and the More Experienced Players Have One More Run in Them
Some of the more experienced players in England's side came up big Friday, contributing mightily to the drubbing.
Striker Jermain Defoe, at 30 years old and with over 50 caps to his name, scored a brace against San Marino.
Meanwhile, Wayne Rooney and Frank Lampard, who have over 170 caps between them, each got a goal and helped contribute to others.
If these players can continue some good international form, it will be huge for England.
After all, there is no substitute for veteran leadership for a side looking to achieve their goals.
The Group Is Shaping into a Two-Horse Race
After Friday saw England, Montenegro and Ukraine all win, Group H looks to be turning into a two-horse race between England and Montenegro.
Sure, Ukraine and Poland each have a match in hand, but the two Euro 2012 hosts trail England by six points and Montenegro by eight.
Meanwhile, each of them has one match with both England and Montenegro remaining, giving them few chances to gain ground in the race for the top spot in the World Cup.
Barring either Ukraine or Poland running the table and winning the rest of their matches, there is little to no chance that either will challenge for the top spot in the group and the automatic bid that comes with it.
This leaves just England and Montenegro to battle over that all-important group victory.
Tuesday's Match Is Huge
With England and Montenegro battling over just one automatic qualifying spot, Tuesday's match between the two nations is obviously one of the biggest that will happen in this group.
A home win for Montenegro would give them a commanding five-point lead heading into the final four matches, while an England win would vault them past the Montenegrins with another match between the two still to be played in England.
In Euro 2012 qualifying, where England finished first and Montenegro second, the two nations drew both matches against one another. Another such draw would leave the same situation that is currently being faced but would also make the October 11 match at Wembley all but decisive.
Tuesday's match will be pivotal for both teams' hopes at playing in Brazil next summer.
UEFA Might Want to Think About Adding an Extra Round
Out of every continental association in the world of football, only UEFA and CONMEBOL, the associations of Europe and South America, respectively, have every team enter in the first round of World Cup qualification.
In every other association, low-ranked teams compete in the first few rounds and eliminate one another before the survivors join the higher-ranked teams in the later rounds.
For CONMEBOL, this system makes perfect sense. After all, South America has just ten national teams, so it would be silly to split up such a small group.
As to UEFA, though, they have 53 member nations, accounting for the association with the most competing nations in the 2014 qualification process.
Hence, having all of these nations enter at the same point leads to complete mismatches like the one tossed up in England's 8-0 victory over San Marino.
In fact, looking around the rest of Europe, one can see a team or two in almost every group that has little to no chance of picking up a victory in any match in which they play.
Now, this obviously makes for some encounters that lack excitement, something no fan want to see.
More importantly, though, this system hinders the ability of these "minnows," or lesser nations, to build up their teams and gain momentum.
After all, constantly banging their head against the wall and getting blown out does not help a team like San Marino. Instead, having them go through a preliminary round where they would compete with the likes of Malta, Andorra and the Faroe Islands would probably do great things for a team like San Marino.
Plus, it would eliminate these 8-0 routs and produce a higher concentration of good matches for fans to watch.
Seems like a winning formula.
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