UEFA EURO2020 Qualifying Match

Walter Eagle

Well we're specialising in the landlocked countries for opponents at the moment. We've moved from the world's largest landlocked country, Kazakhstan at over 1,000,000 square miles, to the third smallest landlocked (and fifth smallest overall) country in the world, San Marino at 24 square miles. And to pursue the landlocked issue further, San Marino is an enclave (the world's third smallest), - not only landlocked but totally enclosed by only one neighbour, in this case Italy. The total population of San Marino is only 33,500 - slightly bigger than Dumfries. So that's set the geopolitical background to today's match. In sporting terms it has to be said that San Marino's international record is as poor as you might expect from its population. Indeed the Wikipedia entry for the San Marino national football team includes the despondent section, "List of matches not lost by San Marino". There are only 5 entries in the list and 4 of these were draws.

Nevertheless, despite this discouraging record, the matches, including today's against Scotland, are played at the grandly named Stadio Olimpico. Got to give these Sammarinese ten-out-of-ten for optimism! An Olympic stadium? Let's hope that it doesn't end up with the Scotland manager, Alex McLeish, for the high jump. McLeish's wonderful ignoring of the facts in Thursday's defeat in Kazakhstan ('we started brightly' etc) has continued with Scotland assistant manager, Peter Grant, announcing, "It's been a great week apart from the result." Well sure thing, Peter. And I'm a world-class footballer, apart from not being able to kick, run, head or tackle. Let's all just hope against form that Scotland somehow find enough to allow them to put a minimum of 4 goals against San Marino. In the past few years Cyprus, Belarus, Czechia, Azerbaijan, Norway, Northern Ireland, Montenegro and Moldova have all achieved or exceeded this. And I'm missing out the big boys like Germany, England, Netherlands and Croatia who've all thumped them by considerably greater margins.

UPDATE - Scotland won. There's really not much more can be said. Two-nil against the worst team in the world - did I mention their ranking was 211th? FIFA compute the rankings table based on points gathered for each match depending on the competition, the opposition, home or away etc. Top of the table are Belgium with 1727, closely followed by France on 1726. England slot in 5th with 1631 points and Scotland were 40th with 1446 points (before this shambles of a weekend.) San Marino have a miserable, pathetic 854 points - that's how bad they are.

On this occasion Scotland did start brightly, scoring in the 4th minute. However the fans had to wait another 70 minutes before the second goal appeared. Even the goalscorers, Kenny McLean and Johnny Russell (hooray for the Kansas City man!) weren't assured or happy about the team's performance. "We got off to a good start. After that, it was a tough state." and "It’s disappointing and frustrating could have been a lot better for us." were their post-match comments. It is all the more galling for those of a certain generation to recall that Archie Gemmell, scorer of that goal, is 72 today. Happy birthday Archie, we could have done with your jinky skills in this match. The acceptance of rubbish like these last two matches means that players of his calibre already seem like more than a generation away. It seems that many of the supporters in San Marino were disappointed by the second goal as it will simply mean McLeish holds on to his job a wee bit longer. This is the face of a worried man.