By Josh Powell | Sports writer
England face San Marino tonight in a World Cup Qualifier. San Marino are officially the worst footballing nation in the world, ranked 207 by FIFA, which is below plenty of exotic countries we’d never even heard of. Their record of one win in 115 games is bleaker than Fulham’s away form and Roy Hodgson’s men are under considerable pressure to bang four or five past San Marino.
To help the three lions prepare for the fixture The Paddy Power Blog has done some extensive research on the San Marino squad.
1. Aldo Simoncini
One half of the San Marino version of the Chuckle Brothers known as ‘Simoncini Fratellis’. Himself and his twin brother Davide get up to all sorts of hi-jinks at the local harbour, slapping each other with fish and knocking over barrels of water in a slapstick manner. In 2010 they both scored own goals against Sweden in a Qualifying game which is historic as twins had never done this in international competition. Oh what jokers.
2. Mirko Palazzi
Mirko is the forgotten man of the Palazzi family. As he watched his seven older brothers and sisters inherit the family cheese business, Mirko was branded as useful as a HMV gift voucher and disowned. Thanks to a well-spun media story about his childhood, he rides the waves of a sea of public tears and lives off the sympathy of a gullible nation.
5. Alessandro Della Valle
Alessandro was catapulted on to the world’s footballing stage after appearing on Michael Barrymore’s My Kind of People in 1995. The 13-year-old defender was casually hanging out at the Bull Ring shopping centre in Birmingham when two minutes of keepy-uppy magic changed his life forever. He was immediately flown back to San Marino and from that day forward he has never looked back.
13. Simone Bacciocchi
One of San Marino’s most capped players and a national hero after a controversial past. Born into a family ruling the illegal grape trade between San Marino and Florence, a doctored passport and a gaping loop-hole meant Simone could have played for Italy. He chose not to, escaped a life of crime and became a footballing icon for San Marino. He did miss out on winning the World Cup though.
3. Damiano Vannucci
The most-capped San Marino national player in history. GQ’s San Marino footballer of the year 2008, 2009 and 2012. Rear of the Year 1994. Is there anything Damiano Vannucci can’t do? The poster boy of San Marino’s qualification campaign he could give Jessica Ennis a run for her money in the race for sporting adoration.
7. Enrico Cibelli
The danger-man in the middle of the park and the one Roy Hodgson will have pinpointed in his preparation for this game. Cibelli had every chance of making it in one of Europe’s top leagues but a botched job by Cibelli’s uncle on Dino Zoff’s garage roof ruined his chances. Zoff’s influence on Italian football decimated any future career path for Cibelli who was resigned to a future dominating the San Marino leagues.
8. Matteo Coppini
The self-styled ‘Bad Boy’ of the San Marino national team. Coppini is hounded by the media for showing a lack of respect to his national team. Fuelled by Eminem songs from the 1990’s and an ear piercing, Coppini is often seen singing ‘Caravan of Love’ by The Housemartins instead of the National Anthem and refusing to salute the flag.
9. Michele Cervillini
Cervillini is the man left with the task of moulding the ‘San Marino fake number nine’ role. An actor by trade, the newspapers are full of rumours that his biological Dad is Coronation Street’s William Roach. There is a striking resemblance and Cervillini is believed to be a product of Roach’s ‘Italian Stallion Tour ’88’.
14. Fabio Bollini
The ‘Bollini Travelling Fair’ is well known in San Marino. It is by far the largest and most dynamic of all the travelling fairs making it one of the most sought after attractions in cities across the country. Fabio spent his youth on the ‘Beat the Keeper’ stall and through years of spanking the ball past regular shot-stopper and former Premier League hero Tim Flowers he became one of the most accurate finishers in the country. Years of newspaper coverage and media pressure followed before the national call up eventually came.
11. Matteo Vitaioli
Vitaioli is 23 years old so is one of the youngest members of the San Marino squad but also one of the most talented. His career was shaped on the sandy coast and until October 2010 he insisted on playing barefoot. A lucrative deal from Diadora was always around the corner however, and Vitaioli is now the face of the Zonda10-LT boot. He is also known as being the only professional footballer who still wears Diadora-branded merchandise.
10. Danilo Ezequiel Rinaldi
One of just 11 players to ever have scored for San Marino. His goal in the 3-2 defeat to Malta in 2012 is the feature of every slow-motion sports montage in the country. But the price of fame took its toll on this promising striker. After his face featured on Choco Crunch cereal boxes across the capital, Rinaldi finally snapped during a live interview on San Marino’s Got Talent. Host Terry Wogan asked Rinaldi what he thought of the level of talent on the 2012 series but the striker snapped, punching Wogan in the jaw and launching a prone flan at guest judge Sophie Ellis-Bexter.