England are looking to mathematically secure their place in next year’s FIFA World Cup when they take on San Marino on Monday.

Harry Kane’s first-half hat-trick coupled with goals from Harry Maguire and Jordan Henderson were enough to help England seal a thumping 5-0 win over Albania this midweek. The three points helped the Three Lions more or less book a place in next year’s FIFA World Cup, with the team leading second-placed Poland by three points and a healthy goal difference.

On Monday, the Three Lions will be looking to mathematically secure their place at the top when they lock horns with San Marino in Serravalle. With qualification almost secured, this will be an ideal opportunity for Gareth Southgate to boost his team’s morale by ending the qualifying campaign on a positive note.

Their opponent, San Marino, are one of only two teams to have failed to secure a single point in the European World Cup Qualifiers so far, along with Gibraltar. The hosts will be hoping to change that, although they were thrashed 5-0 when these two sides last met each other back in March 2021.

With 35 goals conceded in just nine matches, San Marino will be least expecting to avoid a humiliation while also improving on their tally of just one goal scored. But that remains an unlikely possibility as they take on an England side that has conceded only thrice in their qualifying campaign so far.

Here, at The Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over these two sides ahead of their final qualifying game in Serravalle this upcoming Monday.

Team News & Tactics

San Marino

San Marino are likely to stick with a 4-4-2 formation against England, as coach Franco Varrella hopes to assemble a sturdy defensive unit on Monday. His side has conceded goals for fun in this qualifying campaign, but with just one game remaining, they have a reason to give their best and come out of this fixture with at least a point.

The 4-4-2 is indeed San Marino’s best bet, as the central defensive combination of Filippo Fabbri and Dante Rossi look to offer the solidity in the last line of press. They are set to be aided by the full-backs, as Varrella hopes to employ a deep defensive line that will look to frustrate the English attackers.

Hence, even the two midfielders in Enrico Golinucci and Lorenzo Lunadei are expected to operate in deeper channels. They will be tasked with the responsibility of breaking up England’s build-up, with additional assistance from Tommaso Zafferani and Luca Ceccaroli.

The two might be useful in San Marino’s chance creation as well, hoping to provide crosses for the central strikers in Nicola Nanni and Adolfo Hirsch.

Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Benedettini; Battistini, Fabbri, Rossi, Grandoni; Zafferani, Golinucci, Lunadei, Ceccaroli; Nanni, Hirsch



England coach Gareth Southgate had deployed a considerably strong lineup in the important game against Armenia. But with qualification pretty much secured, he might provide opportunities for younger, lesser-used players on Monday.

Embed from Getty Images

Among them, Jude Bellingham is a favourite to start in midfield, alongside Declan Rice. The Borussia Dortmund youngster has made quite an impression with his performances this season, and his box to box abilities could prove to be useful in England’s chance creation against San Marino.

In the second line of press, both the wingbacks in Trent Alexander-Arnold and Ben Chilwell will be looking to provide the width out wide. Their service from wider areas could bode well for Tammy Abraham, who is hoping to replace Harry Kane in the number nine slot.

Further changes in the attacking department could be on the cards after five players including Raheem Sterling and Jack Grealish have pulled out from the squad. It could open up an opportunity for the young Emile Smith Rowe to start at left-wing, while his Arsenal teammate Bukayo Saka may occupy the opposite flank.

Defensively, England are set to persist with their three-man backline that offers stability and numerical advantage in the last line of defence. Southgate, though, is expected to make personnel changes with both Manchester City stars in John Stones and Kyle Walker making way for Conor Coady and Tyrone Mings. There could be a deserved start for Aaron Ramsdale as well, in between the sticks.

Probable Lineup (3-4-3): Ramsdale; Maguire, Coady, Mings; Alexander-Arnold, Bellingham, Rice, Chilwell; Saka, Abraham, Smith Rowe


Key Stats

  • England and San Marino have faced each other seven times, with the Three Lions securing wins in all of them.
  • San Marino are yet to score a single goal against England in their footballing history.
  • Along with Gibraltar, San Marino are one of two teams yet to secure a single point in the European qualifiers for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
  • England have not lost a single game in 90 minutes since their 2-1 defeat to Belgium, almost exactly a year ago.
  • Among the teams who have played at least nine matches in this qualifying campaign, only Denmark (1) have conceded fewer goals than England (3).

Player to Watch

Aaron Ramsdale

Embed from Getty Images

Aaron Ramsdale is undoubtedly the most interesting player for England heading into this game. The Arsenal star, after all, is poised to make his debut for the Three Lions and quite deservedly so, having emerged as one of the best-performing goalkeepers in the Premier League this season.

Ramsdale was a subject of ridicule earlier this summer when he made the jump from Sheffield United to Arsenal. But the Englishman has silenced his critics with his brilliant performances in between the sticks. In fact, his influence has been critical in helping the Gunners turn things around after a disappointing start to the campaign.

From a personal perspective, this game could be highly important for Ramsdale, knowing an impressive display could help him make a case for himself as England’s number one choice between the sticks.


San Marino 0-4 England

Given the gulf in quality between the two teams, it is hard to imagine anything other than an England victory. Not to mention, the Three Lions have been in sublime form recently, and most of their players in top form, San Marino, could brace themselves for yet another drubbing to end their qualifying campaign.

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