England vs San Marino: Three Lions looking to kick off qualifying campaign with a comfortable win

Undefeated in six previous games against the minnows, England go into the game in a confident mood.

When: Thursday, March 25, 19:45 GMT

How to watch: ITV

Best bets

England to win 7-0 is at available at 7/1 (Unibet)

Highest scoring half - Second half is at 4/5 (Sky Bet)

Dominic Calvert-Lewin to score two or more goals at 5/6 (Ladbrokes)

Who else are in England's qualifying group?

After a disappointing Nations League performance in their last campaign, England now turn their attention to qualifying for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

As top seeds, Gareth Southgate's men will be expected to top the group regardless of who they have been drawn against, but Poland could pose a threat to the top spot.

Southgate's side are 1/5 with Unibet to qualify top of the group.

Poland came third in their Nations League group, below Italy and the Netherlands. Poland's main man, Robert Lewandowski is undoubtedly one of the best strikers in the world and, if he can reproduce his domestic form, there is no reason why they can't challenge England to head the group. The striker has 63 goals for his country and is their record scorer.

Poland, ranked 19th in the world, are best priced at 9/2 to win the group with bet365.

Other teams in England's group include Hungary, a team that come into the campaign in good form having topped their Nations League group. Having only conceded four goals in six games, they will be expecting to cause a shock or two against the group favourites.

Hungary are a longshot to win the group at 20/1 (William Hill), but are 5/2 to finish in the top two with Unibet.

Albania are the fourth seeds in the group and are ranked 66th in the current standings. They come into the qualifiers on the back of a five-game unbeaten run, after also finishing top of their Nations League group. Although they are certainly unfancied to take the group, they will be hoping to pick up a decent amount of points.

The two outsiders of Group I are Andorra and England's opponents on Thursday, San Marino. Both teams are towards the bottom of the FIFA World Rankings and realistically will only be playing to avoid bottom spot in this otherwise competitive group.

Last three meetings:

San Marino 0-6 England (September 5, 2015)

England confirmed their spot at Euro 2016 with a straight-forward victory. Wayne Rooney equalled Sir Bobby Charlton's England goalscoring record that stood at 49.

Rooney opened the scoring with an early penalty, sending the 'keeper the wrong way 13 minutes in.

In what was their seventh win from as many qualifying games, an own goal from San Marino meant an unassailable lead for Roy Hodgson's team.

Fifteen seconds into the second half and it was 3-0, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain drove straight towards the byline and stood up a cross for Ross Barkley, who headed into a poorly guarded net.

A brace from Theo Walcott and one from Harry Kane meant England would return home with qualification confirmed.

England 5-0 San Marino (October 9, 2014)

The first time the two sides met in that qualification campaign came at Wembley, with England prevailing 5-0.

England took the lead when centre-back Phil Jagielka rose the highest to meet a corner to score his first competitive goal for his country.

Another Rooney penalty was converted minutes before half-time and shortly after the break Danny Welbeck got in on the action making it three.

In a game where England had 34 shots and 78% possession, it was no shock to see them add to the scoreline. Andros Townsend fired in with a low, hard strike from outside the box and the scoring was wrapped up when a Rooney cross took a heavy deflection into the goal, leaving the 'keeper no chance.

San Marino 0-8 England (March 22, 2013)

England's domination against San Marino resulted in their biggest victory since October 1987. The win boosted England's goal difference, which was vital as they were two points adrift of Montenegro, who sat top of the group.

Yet another own goal for San Marino against England made it 1-0, swiftly followed by a deserved goal from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

The mismatch continued as England dominated from start to finish. Next to score was Jermain Defoe with a tap-in. Minutes later, winger Ashley Young took aim from distance and found the top corner with a superb shot.

Captain Frank Lampard got in on the act to make it 5-0 at the interval. Wayne Rooney, substitute Daniel Sturridge and Defoe with another rounded off the scoring in yet another game where it was a matter of improving goal difference.

Head-to-head

Played: 6

England won: 6

Drawn: 0

San Marino won: 0

England scored: 37

San Marino scored: 1

Strength in depth in Southgate's squad?

There were recalls to the England squad for Jesse Lingard, Luke Shaw and John Stones ahead of their three upcoming games. Liverpool full-back Trent Alexander-Arnold, however, did not make Southgate's 26-man squad due to a lack of form.

Striker Ollie Watkins has been rewarded for his consistency for Aston Villa and Sam Johnstone received his first call-up, as Jordan Pickford misses out through injury.

Other expected squad players currently injured include Jadon Sancho, Jordan Henderson, Jack Grealish and James Maddison.

As Pickford is missing, the England boss has a tough choice to make as to who plays in goal. Nick Pope will perhaps be favourite to be given the number one shirt because he has the most caps of the three current goalkeepers to his name. Dean Henderson and Sam Johnstone are both capable and are in with a shout of making their Three Lions debut.

England have perhaps unprecedented strength in depth in the right-back position with Kyle Walker, Reece James and Kieran Trippier all being picked, with a host of others waiting in the wings. The versatility is perhaps why Eric Dier has been picked as he can play comfortably in defence of midfield. Other defenders Conor Coady and Tyrone Mings have shown that they can play as part of a back three if Southgate opts to use that type of formation.

The two holding midfielders, Kalvin Phillips and Declan Rice, are both excellent on the ball and can read the game too, and Southgate will be likely to use at least one of them for the three matches in this international break. James Ward-Prowse is an out-and-out central midfielder who is technically gifted but gives a more defensively strong look to the team.

Phil Foden and Mason Mount are two players who enjoy being central and with excellent dribbling ability and an eye for a goal, are always looking forward.

Depending on the formation that Southgate decides to go with against San Marino, he has no lack of wide players. Bukayo Saka, Marcus Rashford and Raheem Sterling all provide pace and have proven that they can score plenty of goals.

As far as strikers are concerned, Harry Kane will no doubt be the first choice to lead the line. This being said, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Ollie Watkins have shown their goalscoring exploits in the Premier League and both will be vying for a starting spot, especially if Southgate opts to play with two strikers.

Score prediction: England 7-0 San Marino

England will want to kick off their campaign in style and regardless of the team chosen by Southgate, an easy win should be guaranteed.

The visitors have only ever netted once against England and Southgate's main concern will be scoring as many goals as possible to boost the goal difference early in the qualifiers. In previous meetings, England have never scored fewer than five goals in a game against their opponents and are expected to exceed that number on Thursday night.

England go into this game ranked 4th in the world, whereas San Marino prop up the standings, which highlights the sheer gulf in class between the two teams.

Goalscorer bets

The hosts will be looking to heap the misery on their opponents by firing plenty of goals past them and it is fair to say that every player in a white shirt has a chance of getting on the scoresheet.

Ladbrokes have boosted the odds of a Raheem Sterling hat-trick to 5/1 (up from 11/4).

England will be a danger to San Marino from set pieces and so John Stones could also be taken to score for the Three Lions.

The Manchester City defender is at 13/5 to get on the scoresheet.

READ MORE: Five games you should watch during the international break

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