History suggests England won’t go goal mad in San Marino
Few meetings in the footballing calendar provide as fiendish a betting conundrum as the top international teams’ clashes with the Lilliputians of the world game and England’s visit to the self-proclaimed world’s oldest surviving sovereign state is no different.
In search of attractive odds the mind is prone to drift off into daydreams of footballing armageddon, with correct scores of biblical proportions summoned up in the hope of finding a juicy price.
However bets on lesser beatings may be more sensible. England have scored more than four goals away from home just twice since the turn of the millennium – grabbing a modest five on both occasions – and they’ve not mustered more than five on the road since last they clashed with
That relative timidity on their travels could dovetail nicely with the ultra-defensive tactical modus operandi employed La Serenissima – “the most serene”, as San Marino are known – to keep the score the right side of apocalyptic.
Joint bottom of the FIFA World Rankings (alongside Bhutan and the Turks and Caicos Islands) though they may be, coach Giampaolo Pazza’s men troops play with an increased resolve in front of their home support at the 7,000 capacity Stadio Olimpico.
Though they’ve never failed to lose they haven’t conceded more than twice before half time in a competitive home game since September 2006, a run of some 18 outings, including visits from Sweden, Holland, the Czech Republic and the Republic of Ireland.
If a patriotic punt is a must then the fact that San Marino have scored in just two of their 27 games in the last five years suggests a Three Lions clean sheet may be in the offing, even with the withdrawal of virtually every centre-half in England.
Given he’s notched four goals in as many outings for his country this campaign it could also be worth backing the evergreen Frank Lampard to score at any time at evens should look to have a chance of making it onto the Olimpico’s hallowed turf.