England vs. San Marino: 8-0 Win Meaningless If Three Lions Lose to Montenegro

Ben Chodos@bchodosCorrespondent IIMarch 23, 2013

RIMINI, ITALY - MARCH 22:  Wayne Rooney of England in action during the FIFA 2014 World Cup Qualifier Group H match between San Marino and England at Serravalle Stadium on March 22, 2013 in Rimini, Italy.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

The English national team is usually surrounded with criticism and pessimism, but the team actually has a chance to build some good will after crushing San Marino. However, this all depends on how the team performs against Montenegro.

The Three Lions will play their next 2014 World Cup qualifier on Tuesday, and the team should be in fine attacking form after an 8-0 demolition of San Marino. But the tiny enclave within Italy is more of a joke than a serious competitor in this competition.

Through five matches, San Marino has allowed 24 goals and has yet to find the back of the net. Even Liechtenstein and Luxembourg have managed to score in their qualifiers. 

While the score line is shocking, this victory means next to nothing by itself. However, if it ends up being a prelude to a fine performance against Montenegro, then it will become part of an extremely positive set of matches for England.

Montenegro will provide the toughest challenge the Three Lions have faced in this stage. The team has two fantastic strikers in Mirko Vucinic and Stevan Jovetic. 

The English back line will be tested, and if it fails to hold up, the optimism starting to surround the team will disappear. 

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Roy Hodgson’s squad has already had a couple disappointing performances with draws against Ukraine and Poland. But the team still has a comfortable lead over both these teams in the table, and a victory over Montenegro would put England in excellent position to finish atop Group H.

Montenegro currently tops the group with 13 points, and England is second with 11. Getting three points and jumping into first place would put to rest all the negative press, such as Rio Ferdinand’s critique of the squad.

England will have to travel for the match on Tuesday, and a victory here would put the team atop the group with just four matches left to play in qualifying, and the toughest fixture would be behind it.

This is exactly where the team wants to be, as this would give the combative English press little to criticize ahead of Brazil 2014.

If the Three Lions lose to Montenegro, they will still be on track to finish second in the group, and their ability to qualify will not be in serious jeopardy. Still, it will attract plenty of disapproval from all over the country.

This match brings a pivotal point in the English team’s road to the World Cup.

A victory puts them in perfect position to win the group and storm into Brazil in excellent form, while a loss will make a first-place finish extremely difficult. Advancing through a playoff after finishing second would ensure the team arrives at the World Cup next summer surrounded in doubt once again.