The last time England traveled to San Marino, the Three Lions recorded their biggest win in almost 30 years with an 8-0 hammering of the European minnows. But how things have changed. San Marino have climbed a whopping 15 places in the FIFA rankings – overtaking South Sudan and closing in on the Cayman Islands. What a time to be alive.
Unsurprisingly England are 1/80 to beat San Marino and make it a perfect seven out of seven in their Euro 2016 Qualifying group. It’s not the kind of price that is going to make you rich quick – with a bet of £8,000 required to make £100 profit – but fortunately there are better value bets available to punters looking to boost their bank balance on Saturday night.
Don’t go mad on the handicap
Plenty of punters will see England (-5) at Evens as a far better value punt going into the game, however the stats suggest a touch of caution before emptying the e-wallet. The Three Lions have played teams that are ranked 110 or lower by FIFA eight times away in the last 15 years (World Cup or European qualifiers only) and only covered a five goal handicap once – that game two years ago against San Marino.
Other than that, the Three Lions have had varying degrees of success. It is important to note however that England have won every one of those eight games without conceding so England to win to nil may be a safer alternative. It will still be a skimpy price, but far more appealing than the 1/80 on offer for them to win.
England’s tightest victory came in October 2004 when a Michael Owen goal was all that split Sven-Goran Eriksson’s men and Azerbaijan who were ranked 113th in the world. Similarly Liechtenstein (ranked 148th) kept England to just two goals in 2003, while Andorra who were ranked 194th in 2008 (two places lower than San Marino currently) also escaped with just a 2-0 defeat.
Against teams ranked 110 or lower since 2000, England have averaged 3.5 goals a game away from home in competitive qualifiers, and while San Marino are considerably worse than the likes of Azerbaijan or Moldova, the Three Lions could make hard work of the (-5) handicap. With that in mind, England to win 4-0 at 6/1 and England to win 5-0 at 5/1 might be better value bets.
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Time is of the essence
One interesting bet in the game may be how long San Marino can hold out against the visitors. Two years ago an own goal from Alessandro Della Valle broke the deadlock inside 12 minutes, but history suggests it usually takes the Three Lions a little longer to find a way through.
When it comes to breaking the deadlock, you can expect England to be ahead by the time the oranges come out. Andorra in 2007 (ranked 175th) and again in 2008 (ranked 194th) are the only team ranked 110 or lower to have kept England at bay until half time in the last 15 years, going on to lose 3-0 and 2-0 respectively. The Three Lions’ quickest goal away to a minnow in qualifying came after just three minutes when a Frank Lampard penalty set up a 5-0 beating of Moldova in September 2012.
Bar the Moldova game and the away trip to San Marino, the other six sides lasted at least 22 minutes at home to England, so if you’re punting in-play it might be worth backing San Marino to hold on until at least the 20th minute.
In regards to the last goal, in four of England’s eight wins away to teams ranked 100th or lower in the last 15 years, four of them have conceded the last goal after the 77th minute. Whether it’s a lack of fitness or an England player looking to make a name for himself off the bench a la David Nugent, the Three Lions tend to score late on. Ignoring the anomaly of the 1-0 win over Azerbaijan, where Owen’s goal in the 22nd minute was also the first and the last of the game, the average time for the last England goal is 71 minutes.
With that in mind, while you’re punting in-play, don’t be shy in saving a few pennies for a late strike.
Half way to heaven?
While the stats suggest England finish these games against minnows strongly, but occasionally take a little time to break the deadlock, that would seem to suggest that backing more second half goals than first half goals is a wise move. And while there have been more goals after the interval in those eight games, it’s not all as clear cut as it seems.
England have scored a total of 28 goals against the lower ranked sides away from home in the last 15 years, with 54 per cent of them coming in the second half, and 46 per cent in the first. That doesn’t tell the whole story however, as the stats reveal a little more when you dig deeper. In the eight games, three of them have had more first half goals, three of them have had more second half goals, and two of them have had the same number of goals in each half.
In England’s most recent trip to Moldova in 2013 they scored five in the first half, and three after the break. Six substitutions in the last 35 minutes likely disrupted the flow of the game, while Wayne Rooney played just 56 minutes on that occasion. Similarly in the 5-0 win against Moldova before that in 2012, there were three first half goals and two strikes after the break. Again, a number of substitutions by Roy Hodgson to his attacking line likely curtailed England’s flow. With that in mind, it may be wiser to back more first half goals in-play and expect a quieter second period as substitutions come into play.