Bonini: England may beat us but playing is the thing


Nineteen years ago, when San Marino last played at Wembley, their captain was Massimo Bonini. He was 33 by then, his career winding to a close after seven years at Juventus and a further four at Bologna, but the thrill of international football was still fresh: San Marino had become a full member of Uefa only in 1990. If anybody ever asks whether San Marino really merits a national team, point them in the direction of Bonini.

He was one of the finest midfielders of his generation. At Juventus, he won Scudetti, a European Cup and a Cup-Winners' Cup. He played for Italy's Under-21 side and was repeatedly asked to play for the full national side. Each time the call came, though, he turned it down: he was San Marinese and wanted to play for San Marino.

For all his national pride, though, Bonini, pictured, has no illusions about San Marino's status or what they might achieve against England. "Basically every San Marino player is a non-league footballer, so they crave to play on one of these famous stages," he said. "Playing at Wembley is possibly the best thing they are going to experience in their lives.

"San Marino have good endurance for the first 45 minutes. They then collapse after an hour or so but that's normal when you are not a professional. The most important thing is to see this side play some football, not just defend. But they don't have much choice, do they?"