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Hodgson defends minnows San Marino

16:35 13 October 2012

England manager Roy Hodgson. Picture: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

England manager Roy Hodgson. Picture: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

PA Wire/Press Association Images

Roy Hodgson has refused to join in with critics who claim San Marino have no place in international football.

Since they became a member of FIFA in 1990, last night’s Wembley visitors have won just once, against Liechtenstein in 2004.

The predictably one-sided statistics showed England had 25 shots to San Marino’s single off-target effort, enjoyed an 86% share of possession and won the corner count 17-0.

Analysis is utterly meaningless given the pattern of play did not change from the first minute to the last and, as Hodgson observed, the most significant event of the evening was Ukraine’s surprise failure to overcome Moldova in Chisinau which means England have a three point advantage in Group H.

Little wonder TV pundit Gareth Southgate felt moved to question: “What is the point of San Marino?”

Arsene Wenger’s sentiments may be even more pointed if, as expected, it is confirmed Theo Walcott cracked a rib after being clattered by San Marino goalkeeper Aldo Simoncini with a challenge that would have had them wincing on Hackney Marshes.

And it is not as if a republic that covers just 24 square miles and boasts a population of 32,000, roughly the same size as Bishops Stortford, could ever realistically show any significant improvement.

However, Hodgson is not decrying their existence as a footballing nation.

“It’s up to UEFA and FIFA to decide which countries are allowed into their competitions,” he said.

“San Marino have been in the Euros and the World Cup for some years.

“They play the way they play and do the best they can with the resources they have.

“We knew it was going to be attack versus defence.

“But I watched their matches against Montenegro and Moldova and it was a lot less attack against defence than our game.

“We can’t accuse them of playing a dirty game of football.

“There weren’t too many vicious fouls. There was one, which is the one which bothers us.

“But I wouldn’t suggest they shouldn’t be allowed in the competition.”

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