San Marino Target Shock Against England In European Qualifie
San Marino’s manager Pierangelo Manzaroli played in the side which famously scored against England after seven seconds of a World Cup qualifier in 1993.
It was one of the most memorable moments in English footballing history and almost typified the disastrous Graham Taylor era. Although England recovered to win 7-1, they failed to qualify for the USA World Cup.
Now Manzaroli has swapped the shorts and studs for the manager’s overcoat, but the team’s aims remain similar despite progress being made, as Sky Sports’ Gemma Davies found out…
“Our next goal is to score a goal.”
The aims of San Marino coach Pierangelo Manzaroli may seem to lack ambition, but since his appointment in February 2014 he has yet to see his side score a goal.
In fact, his nation haven’t achieved that landmark since September 2013.
We met with Manzaroli at the team hotel the day before he takes charge of his side against one of the biggest footballing nations in the world. It’s quite an occasion. But the location wasn’t exactly befitting of it.
This weekend the home side’s players will share their three-star team hotel with visiting England fans and their bedroom windows will overlook the busiest road that runs through San Marino. Somehow you can’t quite imagine the England team would ever have to endure such facilities.
But make no mistake, whilst this team know their level, they want to play and make their mark.
“We are amateur,” says Manzaroli. “We try to work four or five days a week with training but it’s not enough.
“But with our heart and passion, we try to cut the difference from England and San Marino. We are a good team for our level.”
The old cliche when England face nations of this size usually surrounds the Premier League professionals facing the everyday workers. This game will be no exception as Wayne Rooney and co will be lining up against a pharmacist, a painter and someone who runs a bar. There are even a couple of unemployed players. As Manzaroli puts it, “it’s not an easy time.”
Occasions like today are special for San Marino, but Manzaroli is no stranger to them as he was part of the side 22 years ago that took the lead against England; although they did go on to lose 7-1.
“Maybe we can repeat this against England. It was a beautiful memory for me and maybe now that I am coach my guys can score a goal. For us, that would be incredible.
“Our big problem is paying attention to all of their players. We know Rooney is a star, a top player in the world, but we can’t just concentrate on him.”
England played in San Marino in their previous qualifying campaign, and while many would predict a similar result to the 8-0 victory, since then San Marino earned an historic draw with Estonia.
The stadium cannot compete with the majority of national grounds in Europe, but progress is being made. On England’s previous visit, in March 2013, Roy Hodgson did his pre-match news conference at a local hotel as the stadium facilities weren’t good enough.
On Friday night Hodgson and Rooney sat in a brand new press conference room that compares favourably to many they have encountered in the last couple of seasons.
Manzaroli and San Marino know the stories on Saturday night will be about England qualifying, and possibly Rooney becoming the all-time leading England goalscorer.
But if they do manage to get that goal they crave so much, they can make the same sort of headlines that the class of 1993 did.