Betfair Ambassador Lee Dixon doesn't think San Marino will put up much resistance against England on Friday...
"In reality, San Marino are a little more than a training run out for this group of England players, and it’ll be a case of fine-tuning and keeping their fitness up."
Back a penalty to be taken @ 2.7
Michael Owen announced his retirement this week and I'd like to start this column by offering him my best wishes. An absolutely devastating player in his peak, it looked nailed on at one stage that he'd go on to get 100 caps and 50 goals for England. Sadly, injuries put paid to that, but at his best he was a truly terrifying striker to play against; lightning pace combined with pinpoint finishing ability is pretty hard to deal with. True, the game caught up with him a bit towards the end of his career but he should be remembered for the match-winning player he was in his peak.
England recommence their World Cup qualifying campaign on Friday night against perennial minnows San Marino in the Stadio Olimpico. In many ways, it's an ideal fixture ahead of a hugely important one just four days later against Montenegro which will potentially decide the group.
In reality, San Marino are a little more than a training run out for this group of England players, and it'll be a case of fine-tuning and keeping their fitness up. It's also important that Hodgson's men hold their concentration and keep the tempo up right to the final whistle. The way things are looking in Group H means goal difference could be all important and although publicly Roy Hodgson will be saying the win is the most important thing, behind closed doors you can bet your bottom dollar the team will be targeting goals, and lots of them.
I've experienced first-hand what it can be like if you're not switched on from the very first whistle against even the smaller teams. Back in 1993 I was playing for England and we conceded against San Marino after just seven seconds. We went on to win the game easily but it was a stark reminder of how important it is to maintain that focus and do the job professionally.
We saw that, at Wembley, San Marino were able to hold England off for 35 minutes until Danny Welbeck was tripped in the area and Wayne Rooney converted the penalty. England then pushed on to win the game 5-0. I don't think that this game being away will make an awful lot of difference and the same sort of score on Friday night looks likely. 0-5 is currently trading at 6.411/2 and I like the look of that as a bet because I can't see San Marino scoring - England had 86% possession against them last time and the minnows barely escaped their own half.
Just another note on the aforementioned penalty - that was one of three penalties England have had in their four group games so far. It's worth backing them to get another one on Friday; San Marino will get tired, sloppy and start to make last ditch tackles and lunges. They also gave away a pen against Moldova, so it wouldn't be a huge surprise to see it happen again and is worth backing at 2.77/4.
England to win 0-5 in the Correct Score market at 6.411/2
Back a penalty to be taken at 2.77/4