England begin their 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign with three fixtures in eight days and will be favourites to win all of them. The Three Lions have been drawn against Poland, Hungary, Albania, Andorra, and San Marino in Group I, and are favourites to qualify as winners of the group so they can feature at the first winter World Cup in Qatar next year.
They get their campaign underway with the visit of San Marino to Wembley Stadium. This will be the fourth qualifying campaign England have faced the minnows, with the last being qualification for the 2016 Euros.
England have won all previous encounters home and away against San Marino, who will have a team made up largely of part-time players. When you compare that with the multi-millionaires who will be representing England, and an opening win should be on the cards.
The Three Lions have a strong squad available to face the minnows
With three games in just eight days, manager Gareth Southgate might be tempted to hold back some players in preparation for the potentially trickier ties in Albania and against Poland.
If he decides not to start Harry Kane against San Marino, Southgate still has plenty of firepower at his disposal with the likes of Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Raheem Sterling, Marcus Rashford, and Bukayo Saka in the squad. There has also been a first international call up for Aston Villa’s Ollie Watkins, and it could be the perfect opportunity to hand him his debut.
The midfield is strong too, with Mason Mount, Phil Foden and a rejuvenated Jesse Lingard all bringing their own goal threat. In defence, the likes of Harry Maguire, Eric Dier, and Tyrone Mings will expect a comfortable night if selected, whilst there have been recalls for Luke Shaw and John Stones too.
Previous encounters between England and San Marino
On their last three visits to Wembley, San Marino have conceded 16 goals and failed to score. Their last visit was in 2014 when England ran out 5-0 winners thanks to goals from Phil Jagielka, Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck, Andros Townsend, and a Della Valle Ales own goal.
The most England have ever scored against San Marino at Wembley has been six goals back in 1993, but they did win an away tie 8-0 in 2013 with Frank Lampard, Wayne Rooney, and Jermaine Defoe amongst the scorers that night. Although England have dominated the games between the nations, winning on all six occasions and scoring 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 beat or draw with 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.