Can we play San Marino every week?

At school, when I was a lot younger, a group of us would play the rest of the class at football every lunchtime. I can’t remember a time we lost, and invariably it would be a big win. It wasn’t particularly competitive.


Do San Marino deserve their place in the World Cup, despite not scoring a competitive goal for five years? Max Mclean thinks they do. Photo: Bartek Langer (via Flickr)
Chants of “can we play you every week?” would have been met with responses of “yes, if you like.” Our eight year old egos were the main beneficiaries.

On Friday, March 22nd, 2013, England faced the international equivalent of ‘the rest of the class’ in San Marino, and strolled to victory by eight goals. It was easier than taking candy from a baby; it was more like taking a rug off a floor, or a frame off a wall.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain looked excellent on the right and in the middle. Quick feet and adventurous movement earning him his second goal for England, and those same attributes made him a threat for the entire game.

Other notable mentions go to Leighton Baines, whose freedom in defence allowed him to overlap with Young on the left hand side driving into the box on numerous occasions, and Joe Hart, who some say completed a ‘difficult’ rated Sudoku during the first half.

The game was about creating a healthy goal difference for England ahead of their crucial game against Montenegro, but the bigger issue apparently became San Marino’s status as a competitive team at a tournament such as the World Cup. They haven’t scored a competitive goal for nearly five years.

It’s a silly record on the face of it, but I’m very sceptical about those who ridicule their status as a country who should be allowed to compete. The San Marino FA took particular exception to the comments made by the ITV, and took to Twitter to complain. They felt patronised, and I think they were right to feel so.

Why should it be up to us, a country of millions (both in population and pounds sterling) to question their status at a World Cup? They are a country. As such, they should be allowed to represent themselves at a world event, whether or not they’ve only ever won one competitive game.

I don’t know if you’ve ever represented something that wasn’t necessarily the best, be it a sports team or merely something you care about, but it genuinely is not always about the winning.

Someone made a remark about their goalkeeper being an accountant and keeping track of England’s goals. I’m sure he didn’t mind playing international football against some of the best players in the world. It was more than what I was doing with my Friday night, which was watching him.

The suggestion of a mini-league involving some of the world’s football minnows interests me. Teams such as Bhutan, San Marino and Andorra, for example, fighting it out amongst themselves for a spot in qualifying. But it should be their choice. If they’re enjoying what they’re doing and it’s harming no one else, leave them to it.

You don’t find many countries complaining after an 8-0 away win, but we found a way.

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