England v San Marino: Go big on goals at Wembley

Gareth Southgate
England manager Gareth Southgate will assess his Euro options against San Marino

"Southgate's England have had emphatic first half performances in big qualifying wins, scoring five, four and five against Montenegro, Bulgaria and Kosovo. So could get the job done in 45 minutes again.
Back over 3.5 first half goals in England v San Marino @ 2.26/5

England will have no problem against minnows San Marino, with Paul Higham expecting an avalanche of goals at Wembley.

England v San Marino
Thursday 25 March, 19:45 kick-off
Live on ITV

Southgate to look at England options

In the strangest and most congested season ever, cramming in three World Cup qualifiers has been labelled as a nonsense in some quarters - and when you see England going up against 250/1 shots San Marino than the argument against their pointlessness is a hard one to win.

However, the international show must go on and for Gareth Southgate at least this next couple of weeks is as crucial in shaping his thinking ahead of this summer's delayed Euro 2020 as it is in booking their place in Qatar 2022.

England will qualify for the World Cup and they'll win this game handsomely, but that doesn't mean that it won't be a useful exercise for Southgate. You'd not normally overlook opponents on the international stage, but San Marino, ranked at 210 by FIFA are definitely ones you can look beyond.

Instead of focusing on the result, it's about formations and performances for Southgate, with Dean Henderson and Nick Pope able to battle for Jordan Pickford's place in goal, and the returning John Stones and Luke Shaw a few good performances away from nailing down starting spots at the Euros after strong seasons at club level.

Jesse Lingard can repay Southgate's faith in him by replicating his West Ham form back in the Three Lions fold and Jude Bellingham may also get the chance to shine over the next three games.

As ever, the team sheets will be all-important in terms of looking at backing the right result and the right scorers, but it's a game where England should really be filling their boots.

San Marino's magic moment

November 17, 1993, was the date, Bologna was the venue and Davide Gualtieri was the San Marino hero who gave them the lead against England after just 8.3 seconds of their World Cup qualifier. Don't remind Stuart Pearce but it was one of the biggest shocks we've seen in football.

England took 20 minutes to really recover before going on to win 7-1, but that goal was a high point of six losses in six games for San Marino against the Three Lions - scoring just that one goal to England's 37.

San Marino are actually in the form of their lives going into this game with two draws in their last three games, albeit against Gibraltar and Liechtenstein - the latter being the only team San Marino have ever beaten.

The Nations League has given sides like San Marino the chance to try and build some confidence with more games against sides of similar size and ability, but they've been thrust back into the deep end again and it looks like being another long old campaign for the perennial minnows.

Perhaps this season of all seasons we could see something of a fairytale? Well, with San Marino scoring just once, against Kazakhstan, in their last 24 games over three-and-a-half-years then I wouldn't get your hopes up.

How many will England get?

England are favourites to actually win the Euros this summer, so it'll surprise nobody to see them such overwhelmingly favoured at Wembley to the tune of 1.0051/100 with the fairytale draw at 4140/1 and the never-going-to-happen San Marino victory looking a bit short if anything at 250249/1.

For the record, England have won their last seven opening games in tournament qualifiers, and have won their last 18 home qualifying games.

San Marino have just three draws from 142 qualifiers played, and have lost by at least five on every trip to England - even Roy Hodgson's England managed to beat them 5-0 on their last visit so that should be the very least Southgate's side should be aiming for.

It's most likely a match for Same Game Multis to try and build something with respectable odds - we know England will win, score a lot of goals and won't concede. Throw in a goal for the in-form Lingard who must surely start having been brought back into the side.

If Harry Kane, who has scored 20 goals in 19 qualifiers, plays he'll score - and a multi-scorer betting option is worth looking at once the teams are known.

Go big on goals

Jesse Lingard England WC 2018.jpg

There's no banana skin here, England will win handsomely as even against higher ranked sides under Southgate they've scored fives, sixes and even sevens in games against minnows, and they'll be eyeing up another big goal tally.

The current situation will only hurt San Marino more too, and they've been conceding in high numbers against decent sides away from home in recent times - with Russia and Belgium both putting nine past them and Scotland hitting six in recent road trips.

So, in what's a desperately difficult search for value, don't be afraid to go big in terms of goals, with over 7.5 match goals at 2.111/10 very much in play given the gulf between the sides.

A decent angle could be looking at the half-time markets - as Southgate's England have had emphatic first half performances in big qualifying wins, scoring five, four and five against Montenegro, Bulgaria and Kosovo.

Over 3.5 first half goals here then, at 2.26/5, is certainly not the worst angle of attack in such a game.

If there is a bagful in the first half, that naturally leads to a drop in intensity in the second 45 minutes, along with expected changes, so also looking at the first half having the most goals at 3.02/1 would also appeal.

You couldn't really describe any England player as 'value' in the anytime goalscorer market, but likely centre back pairing Harry Maguire and John Stones are both worth a look.

Stones will surely get an immediate start on his return to rekindle his partnership with Maguire - and the Man City man has bagged five goals this season while Maguire has two for Man Utd, and also scored for England against Ireland last November.

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