San Marino cling to pride as England loom
San Marino manager Giampaolo Mazza admits that his primary objective for Friday's World Cup qualifier against England is to see his players avoid humiliation.
Representing a tiny state with a population of just over 30,000 people, San Marino have never won a competitive fixture and are generally regarded as mere cannon fodder for Europe's elite teams.
Friday's game in Serravalle is viewed in England as an opportunity for Roy Hodgson's side to bag some goals and boost morale in preparation for Tuesday's crucial trip to Group H leaders Montenegro.
However, England came unstuck in their last game away to San Marino, conceding a goal after just 8.3 seconds of a World Cup qualifier in November 1993.
Davide Gualtieri's strike was the fastest in the history of World Cup qualifying matches, and although England eventually ran out 7-1 winners, Mazza says the current squad can draw inspiration from his achievement.
"All I'm asking from my players is a great performance," Mazza told a press conference on Thursday.
"Our dream? Well that became true 20 years ago thanks to Davide Gualtieri, who managed to score a goal that remains the fastest in the history of World Cup qualifiers.
"Our dream is to always play a good game and limit the potential damage. We cannot afford to dream beyond that in a game as tough as tomorrow's.
"It will not just be a great football game for us but also a big party, because we meet England at Serravalle for the first time."
England prevailed 5-0 when the sides met at Wembley Stadium in October, although it took them 35 minutes to break the deadlock.
Faced with the likelihood that England will dominate possession again at Stadio Olimpico on Friday, striker Andy Selva says his role will be to ease the strain on his defensive colleagues as much as he possibly can.
"From a striker's point of view, the objective is always to score goals and scoring against a great team like England would be even better," said the 36-year-old, who plays for Fidene in the Italian fourth division.
"I've also got the added responsibility of trying to hold the ball up so the rest of the team can catch its breath.
"We need a great show of sacrifice from everybody. We'll play a cautious game in which we must stay focused and try to make the most of our time on the ball when they give it away.
"We will be facing some of the best players in the world, but we mustn't let that affect us."
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