San Marino serenely beaten after delaying the inevitable



Residents of the Most Serene Republic of San Marino, to honour the country with its full title, no doubt treat news of a drubbing on the football field with suitable serenity. They have, after all, had plenty of practice and would have expected nothing else from last night's rabbit shoot.

The only unpredictable element of such occasions is the time of first goal, which was unexpectedly delayed here, to the increasing restlessness of the Wembley crowd, and the final damage. Otherwise, there were no surprises. The visitors strung two thick blue lines across the pitch in a 5-4-1 formation, the unfortunate one being not so much a lone attacker as a lonely first line of defence.

Occasionally when the ball was punted forward somwhere in his general direction, Rinaldi Danilo managed a touch, looked up and saw nothing but white shirts all around. Given half a chance up against Gary Cahill as England pushed forward with greater recklessness in the second half, he miscued embarrassingly.

On average the Sammarinese lose internationals by six goals – as they had done the opening group match at home to Montenegro.

In competitive away games it is seven goals; so when Roy Hodgson's labouring team went 35 minutes without beating that hardy creature, the regular goalkeeper Aldo Simonici, England were looking below average in every sense. For too long they attempted to clear a pathway through the centre like a commuter seeking a seat on a Jubilee Line train; receiving just a many prods and pokes in the process.

Even on the London Underground in rush-hour passengers do not normally have their legs taken from under them and it took Simonici's lunge at Danny Welbeck, leading to Wayne Rooney's penalty, before Wembley – incredibly, a sold-out Wembley – could relax a little. At that point we were being asked to believe that the home side had a mere 56 per cent of possession, which said more about such statistics than the reality. By the end it was a more believable 85 per cent, though even that meant that San Marino had the ball for almost a quarter of an hour of the game. Joe Hart, a bystander, would have disagreed.

Their greatest former player, Massimo Bonini of Juventus, said of his countrymen in yesterday's Independent: "they collapse after an hour or so."

This time they kept the score down to two for nine minutes longer before Rooney and Welbeck added a second little double after the break. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain brought England closer to a par score, avoiding the sort of embarrassment that lasted longer for Scotland – twice held goalless for an hour – and both Wales and the Republic of Ireland, who in 2007 won by only 2-1, the latter when Stephen Ireland scored in the 94th minute.

England's previous wins in these encounters were by 6-0 and 7-1 and sitting high up in the stand last night, as opposed to fretting on the touchline in 1993, Graham Taylor, the former manager, could have pointed out that even his team, doomed not to qualify for the World Cup finals, had found the going easier; despite Jonathan Pearce in his local radio commentary famously not having finished reading the plug for the programme sponsor before the ball was in David Seaman's net. Davide Gualtieiri, who put it there in Bologna, still holds the record for fastest World Cup goal at eight seconds.

Next for San Marino is a home game with Moldova, who until last night were actually below them on goal difference. It is in theory their easiest group game; but results over the course of 115 matches as an international football nation have shown that such things are relative.

voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Joining forces: young British men feature in an Isis video in which they urge Islamists in the West to join them in Iraq and Syria
newsWill the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The nomination of 'The Wake' by Paul Kingsnorth has caused a stir
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
Arts and Entertainment
Residents of Derby Road in Southampton oppose filming of Channel 4 documentary Immigration Street in their community
voicesSiobhan Norton on why she eventually changed her mind
Scottish singer Susan Boyle will perform at the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony in Glasgow
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules
filmReview: The Rock is a muscular Davy Crockett in this preposterous film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Life and Style
Caption competition
Caption competition

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes