England go first. Plenty of trumpet for the San Marino anthem, Inno Nazionale della Repubblica. It’s one of those rare anthems that doesn’t have lyrics; or rather, at official occasions, the lyrics are not sung. That must be a setback for the writer, Giosuè Carducci
“It is big to be around this team but it really hurts to be out of it. Such a disappointment to miss out on the home tournament, probably the only one I will get. It has not quite clicked for me. I feel I play my best football when I play with freedom.
“Beckham is my role model. The way he kicked the ball, his body shape. What did I think when Gareth asked me play right midfield? I thought ‘ok’.”
for their seventh consecutive World Cup. “When you are growing up, a little kid, it is the FA Cup and the World Cup,” says Ian Wright. “That is what you dream of.”
Mark Pougatch kindly (?!) reminds his ITV colleague that Wrighty was part of the last England team not to qualify… That would of course be 1994. Wright played a full part in what he says is one of the great matches of his life, the draw in Rome that took them to 1998.
England need just a point from San Marino for 2022 to join 2018, 2014, 2010, 2006, 2002 and 1998 in their recent list of disappointments heroic attempts at football’s biggest prize.
of Aaron Ramsdale. He’s got an experienced back three in front of him: Mings, Maguire, Coady.
And also for his fellow debutant, Emile Smith Rowe, who is also making his first England start.
Would you rather make your England debut against eg Brazil, or get a quiet start against San Marino? I guess for Aaron the problem is that it will only be a notable opener if he lets in a shocker. Really, any goal would be a massive shock I guess.
Kane, who is nine goals behind Rooney’s record, has just two against the same opponents. The Tottenham striker was brought off the bench in England’s 6-0 win in San Marino in 2015, likewise the 4-0 win against Andorra this September. In other meetings Kane was either injured or rested.”
on Monday night – assuming they can get the lights on, that is. Sky Sports is reporting that there was a “loud bang” and some plumes of smoke, and then the lights went out in the stadium. Sky Sports say there has been some sort of powercut and that Uefa officials are talking of a “back up generator”. There seems to be little concern as yet that they won’t get it on but, to state the bleedin’ obvious, it’ll be dark in San Marino by kick-off time and they’ll need someone to get the lights on.
San Marino traditionally have at least one electrician in their line-up along with a medical student, a postman, a couple of waiters or cooks etc etc so there are high levels of confidence that someone, perhaps not even one of the first eleven, can do the necessary.
Assuming that does all click into place, we will then have kick off at 1945. I’ll bring you the team news an hour ahead of time. Obviously England will be fancying their chances against mighty San Marino, who are ranked 210 in the Fifa rankings, which is to say: bottom.
The fixture comes to you from Group I of the European qualifying section. England have 23 points and Poland have 20 from the nine games so far. This is the final fixture and England are definitely going to top the group. San Marino have played nine and lost nine, but have scored a goal. Huzzah. Be brilliant if they could get one tonight but, you have to say, a powercut might well be their best hope. Perhaps playing it in darkness could act as a leveller.
I’ll also bring you news of how Scotland are getting along. They have mustered 20 points from their nine group F games so far, and are in second, meaning they will be into the play-offs. They host Denmark tonight, who have already qualified, topping the group with 20 points. (Third place is a tie between Israel and Austria as it stands, but they are both on 13 so that’s all settled as well in that group).
Gareth Southgate, bless him, has gamely said: “We have not qualified yet. We have got thousands of England fans travelling and we must put on a performance that underlines those facts. We’re taking this very seriously.”