Glenn Moore: Only winners in pointless games like these are the suits at Uefa

When park players are allowed to mix with elite footballers, people get hurt

Michael Platini used to care about footballers. It was at his prompting Fifa outlawed the tackle from behind. Now he thinks only about how he can marshal the votes needed to retain the Uefa presidency and launch a coup at Fifa. Thus the continued indulgence of statelets like San Marino who, in the bizarre democratic oligarchy of football politics, have the same voting power of England or Germany.

San Marino is smaller than the Isle of Sheppey in size and population. Sheppey United play in the Kent League which is the level San Marino should be at. Instead they are sharing the stage with Wayne Rooney et al. There must have been a few in the crowd thinking, 'I wonder if I have a Sammarinese relative. I quite fancy playing international football.'

But when park players are allowed to mix it with elite footballers, people can get hurt. It is why insurance companies take a dim view of civilians joining in professional team training sessions. Last night Theo Walcott, pole-axed by Aldo Simoncini's reckless challenge, was sacrificed on the altar of political expediency. His season has been stop-start due to his contract stalemate at Arsenal. This was a chance for a fulfilling night's action.

In his absence Aaron Lennon, making his first start since that grim night against Algeria in Cape Town, began well, making the second goal, but thereafter failed to seize the opportunity the evening presented.

Not that he was alone was this was a tough gig to get motivated for when you are used to playing in the Champions League. The FA tweeted that Michael Carrick was starting his first competitive game since 2009. This was competitive in name only.

No easy matches in international football? It looked that way at various points earlier in the evening with Sweden trailing in the Faroe Islands, Italy being held in Armenia and Czech Republic drawing 1-1 at home to Malta. In the event Sweden, Italy and the Czechs all won, albeit uncomfortably, but this was different. San Marino are the minnows' minnow, but when the height of a team's ambition is to keep the score down, and they are well-drilled, patience can be required to break them down.

So it was last night. It was inevitable that England would win, even if they had to wait until San Marino became mentally and physically exhausted. In the event they exploited their opponents' naivety to break the deadlock just as the crowd were getting nervous. Welbeck's neat finish two minutes after Rooney's penalty ensured there would be cataclysmic upset, after that it was a case of racking up the goals and avoiding further injury.

The problem with these matches is that the lack of competitive edge makes it difficult for footballers who are used to playing at the highest level to maintain their focus, sloppiness creeps in. .

England could have been sharper tactically too. This was an ideal opportunity for Carrick to play in central defence, spreading the play from there. Players such as Lennon should have been more prepared to run at opponents, to commit them, to test their ability to time a tackle. Throughout players seemed happier to lay the ball off sideways, or behind. Too few players were prepared to run beyond Welbeck into dangerous areas. But then, with a difficult match in Poland coming up on Tuesday the inclination of some to play within themselves was inevitable.

On the credit side Wayne Rooney, captain for the night, reined in any frustration he may have been feeling at the goalless first half-hour and close Sammarinese attentions to stay calm. He looked happier in an England shirt than for a while, and fitter. It helped that, unlike Andorra a few years ago, the opposition did not seek to bridge the chasm in class with rough stuff.

As so often with England Manchester United players made a significant contribution with Welbeck underlining his ability to score unexpected goals as well as the striker's bread-and-butter ones and Tom Cleverley making some telling interventions.

There was also much to applaud in the astonishing turnout which showed there is a deep well of enthusiasm for the national team even if many of the corporates understandably lingered over the half-time chardonnay.

What did Roy Hodgson learn? That this England team remain very much a work in progress. They are organised, they keep their shape, but they lack the flair, adventure and incisiveness that marks out the very best teams.

It was hard, however, for the England manager to take anything from a game against such abysmal opposition. This match bore no relation to the ones England will have to win to achieve something on the international stage. The World Cup may have been expanded to accommodate too many teams but even the weakest possess some ambition.

Of more long-term relevance last night was England under-21s 1-0 win over Serbia in the first-leg of their European Championship qualifying play-off at Carrow Road. Tournament experience is vital for developing international players and Hodgson will follow events in Tuesday afternoon's second leg in Krusevac with as much interest as his own commitments that night with the seniors will allow. Certainly, this morning he can expected to turn to the DVD of that match before watching this one again.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Laura Trott with her gold
Commonwealth Games
Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman
film
News
Bryan had a bracelet given to him by his late father stolen during the raid
people
Sport
France striker Loic Remy
sportThe QPR striker flew to Boston earlier in the week to complete deal
Extras
indybestSpice up your knife with our selection of delicious toppings
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried