England will begin their 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign with three fixtures in eight days, and each game is one they’ll be favourites to win. They get their campaign underway with a tie against San Marino at Wembley on Thursday, before heading out to Shkodër to face Albania at the Loro-Boriçi Stadium. They then return to Wembley to face Poland three days later.
England has been drawn against Poland, Hungary, Albania, Andorra, and San Marino in Group I and are favourites to qualify as winners of the group to feature at the first winter World Cup in Qatar next year. William Hill currently prices England at 10/1 to go all the way and be crowned world champions next year, but first, they must get off to a winning start against a side they have played often in recent years.
San Marino return to Wembley
This will be the fourth qualifying campaign England have faced San Marino, the last being qualification for the 2016 Euros. England has won all previous encounters home and away against the microstate, which sits in a mountainous region surrounded by north-central Italy. The San Marino team will be largely made up of part-time players, so when you compare that with the multi-millionaires who will be representing England, and an opening qualifying campaign win should be comfortable.
On their last three visits to Wembley, San Marino have conceded 16 goals and failed to score. Their last visit was in 2014 and saw England run out 5-0 winners thanks to goals from Phil Jagielka, Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck, Andros Townsend and a Della Valle Ales own goal.
With three games in just eight days, manager Gareth Southgate might be tempted to hold back some players who would normally get the nod, in preparation for the trickier looking ties in Albania and against Poland.
However, if he decides not to start Harry Kane against San Marino, he still has plenty of firepower at his disposal in Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Raheem Sterling, Marcus Rashford, and Bukayo Saka. There has also been a first international call up for Aston Villa’s Ollie Watkins, and he could use this game as the perfect opportunity to hand him his debut. The most England have ever put past San Marino at Wembley has been six goals back in 1993, and they are priced at 5/1 with William Hill to repeat that feat and win 6-0 this time. However, many players will be playing for a place at the Euro’s this summer, so they’ll want to impress.
William Hill is also offering odds of 9/1 for England to win 9-0, or 12/1 for a 10-0 success. The most England have ever scored against the minnows was eight in 2013, when Frank Lampard, Wayne Rooney and Jermaine Defoe were amongst the scorers in an 8-0 win at the Stadio Olimpico di Serravalle.
Previous encounters between the nations
Although England has dominated the games between the nations, winning on all six occasions they have met and scored 37 goals in the process, the most famous goal in this fixture came in 1993 for San Marino.
England, who were managed by Graham Taylor at the time, needed to win by a wide margin against San Marino in Bologna, and hope Poland could get a result against Holland to qualify for the 1994 World Cup. However, after just 8.3 seconds, Davide Gualtieri scored almost straight from the kick-off to stun the Three Lions. They did recover to win the game 7-1, but it is the fastest goal England have ever conceded. Previous results have been:
- England 6-0 San Marino 1993
- San Marino 1-7 England 1993
- England 5-0 San Marino 2012
- San Marino 0-8 England 2013
- England 5-0 San Marino 2014
- San Marino 0-6 England 2015