Gareth Southgate’s England come up against the lowest ranked side in world football on Thursday at Wembley, but San Marino boss Franco Varrella is looking to make things difficult.
The veteran boss has admitted that the challenge in getting a result at Wembley to open their 2022 FIFA World Cup qualification campaign on a high isn’t likely, but they will be giving it their best shot.
Varrella has a squad that is made up of just three pros, a graphic designer, production assistant, a second-hand car dealer and a dentist among others, with many restarting training just last month.
A nation of 33,000 inhabitants, San Marino are ranked rock bottom at 210 and have never won a competitive match, losing each of their six fixtures against England by an aggregate scoreline of 37-1.
Midfielder Lorenzo Lunadei, who works for a car dealership, has said: “We are both nervous and excited.
“We are nervous because we’re going to face such a great team.”
Forward Matteo Vitaioli has said of the build up to their highly anticipated fixture: “We train three or four times per week in the evening, because everybody has a job.
“We normally start after 7pm until 9:30pm. I work for SIT Group, one of the biggest companies in San Marino that produces packaging.”
Manager Varrella, a former Juventus youth player said: “We only started one month ago, we’ve played just four official games before this triple header of World Cup qualifying matches.
“We are far away from our best condition and even further away than Premier League players can reach. Our target to fix a score would be difficult but we can hope to make it difficult for them.
“When the opposition is so tough, the challenges are incredibly high. But it is a dream to play great teams but the challenge for every team is to make sure we never enter the pitch already beaten.
“That is our target for this game, to enter the pitch not beaten. England are a very good team now. They play a much more international style than they have in recent years.”
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Veteran midfielder Mirko Palazzi, 34, added: “To play here at Wembley is always a very proud moment for us, especially in such a historical moment at the start of a campaign.
“We want to make a better start ourselves at Wembley because it is a temple of football and England are one of the best teams in the world.
“We’ve played as a national team in so many games with some really big opponents, England, Spain and Germany. Each time we’ve faced professional opponents, even with the smaller teams.
“We want to be as professional as possible even if we’re not professional and we’re normal working people. But when San Marino players end their careers, the most beautiful memories will be from the national team, playing in great stadiums.
“I’ve played at Wembley three times and it’s incredible – even if it’s a source of jokes from my team mates in the locker room."
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