By Matt Denney Wednesday 8th Oct, 2014

England v San Marino

It’s fair to say Roy Hodgson will not have had too many sleepless nights ahead of Thursday’s encounter with San Marino at Wembley. After all, this is a San Marino side that has suffered defeat on each of the last 59 occasions they have taken to the field, a run which stretches all the way back to April 28th, 2004 when they heroically triumphed 1-0 against Liechtenstein.

With a total population less than the attendance at Upton Park every other week, San Marino are the ‘minnowest’ of international minnows. In fact you can now get 495/1 on the exchanges for a San Marino victory.

It’s difficult to say what constitutes ‘par for the course’ when you come up against the eleven brave men from this sovereign state . After all this is a side that recently lost 9-0 away in Ukraine and then 8-0 at home to the same opposition a month later. Ukraine are an accomplished side but hardly a heavyweight of modern day world football. Mind you, neither are England.

One thing’s for certain, just beating San Marino is not nearly enough.

An incredible 9 countries list their biggest international victory as coming against San Marino. Sadly Wales can’t count themselves amongst that number, sneaking a 2-1 win against them in 2007, a result which was met with widespread criticism by their fans and prompted then Head Coach John Toshack to remark: “It’s very sad that we had to be biting our nails in the last 10 minutes”. Toshack has since moved into management in the Azerbaijan Premier League where things are a little less stressful.

England’s 5-0 triumph against San Marino when the two sides last met at Wembley back in October 2012 was somewhat underwhelming, not just because Holland stuffed the same opposition by 11 and Germany once rattled 13 past them, but also because England never clicked into gear.

Better was to come when the two sides locked horns again in San Marino in March 2013, when the Three Lions clocked up an 8-0 victory. Anything less this time around will be greeted with mild disappointment, regardless of the notable absentees in this current England squad.

The gulf in class is evident. But so too are the fitness levels and fatigue will always be a factor for La Serenissima (a nickname which ironically translates as ‘the most serene’). It stands to reason that part timers who don’t enjoy the same level of match day preparation as our pampered stars, will struggle to stay the distance. The stats support this.

15 out of San Marino’s last 22 internationals have seen more goals scored in the second half than the first, including that 5-0 Wembley defeat. Immediately prior to that match, San Marino slumped to a 6-0 defeat against Montenegro, conceding four in the second half. A 5-0 defeat to Sweden in 2011 looks one sided enough, but the scores had been level after 45 minutes. An 8-0 reverse against Finland came about after just a single goal was scored in the first half, whilst the 11 goal thumping against the Dutch saw the men in orange score eight times in the second period, including four in the last 13 minutes.

There aren’t too many worthwhile bets ahead of this clash and I can’t see too many punters rushing to back Roy Hodgson’s men at 1/100, however inevitable victory is. But the 19/20 available with William Hill on the second half of this match being higher scoring than the first may just provide the betting value you’re looking for.

The second bet recommendation is to back Wayne Rooney to score two or more goals in the match at best price 4/5 with BetVictor and Paddy Power. The Manchester United and England captain will be raring to go having missed the last domestic game through suspension and facing a further two club matches on the sidelines following that red card against West Ham United.

Rooney scored twice in that 5-0 win against San Marino in 2012 and at 4/5, he should be backed to find the net more than once again on Thursday as he closes in on England’s all time top goalscorer record.

Recommended bets – 

Second half to be higher scoring than the first – 19/20 (William Hill)

Wayne Rooney to score two or more goals – 4/5 (BetVictor & Paddy Power)