England opponents San Marino include second-hand car dealer and have never won a competitive match – conceding 730 goals
ENGLAND begin the road to next year’s World Cup finals at Wembley on Thursday against a team which includes a second-hand car dealer.
And part-timers San Marino, the lowest-ranked team in world football, have only just returned to action after FOUR MONTHS without playing football due to Covid-19 rules.
Sammarinese midfielder Lorenzo Lunadei, 23, who works for a car dealership over the border in Italy, said: “We are both nervous and excited.
“We are nervous because we’re going to face such a great team.
“We only restarted playing a few weeks ago because the amateur championships in Italy and San Marino were stopped by the government due to the pandemic.
“For this reason, even though we trained individually until February, we should take this into account when we go into the next three World Cup qualifiers over the space of a week.
“I need to travel with the national team so I have to use my holiday allowance for away games. But I am happy to do it as it is my passion.
“I have worked as a car dealer at Autocom Riccione for two years. I wake up at 7:30am then I move to the office where I work until 7pm with a little lunch break in the middle.
“If I have training, I do not get home until 10pm.”
San Marino, a nation of 33,000 inhabitants, have a ranking of 210 in the world and have never won a competitive match. They have lost all six of their previous matches against the Three Lions.
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Forward Matteo Vitaioli, 31, said: “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.
“I work in a graphic office from 8:30am till 5:30pm. I started to work here seven years ago and it’s quite complicated when we have to travel abroad.
“I’m lucky because my company never complained about it but some of my San Marino team-mates have had to withdraw from internationals abroad because of work.
“We are really excited even if for some players it won’t be the first time in London.
“I’ll be at Wembley for the third time in my career and some top players from LaLiga and Serie A do not manage that. Obviously, it will be slightly different because Wembley won’t be sold out on Thursday but empty.
“But it is still exciting. We will share the pitch with players that we are used to seeing on TV.”
The most famous moment in San Marino’s sporting history was when Davide Gualtieri scored against England after just 8.3 seconds in a 1993 World Cup qualifier. The Three Lions eventually won 7-1.
Lunadei added: “No-one will get tired of talking about Davide’s flash-lightning goal, even if it is no longer the overall record after a quicklier one from Christian Benteke.
“We were fond of the memory and it became famous around the world and particularly, England.”
Vitailo said: “Each Sammarinese person remembers such a big moment and it’s always emotional.
“It was one of the most beautiful pages in the history book of our football. It is something quite impossible to replicate. But… never say never!"
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