Whipping boys. Serial debunkers of the myth that there are no easy games at international level. And, on Friday night, history makers. When San Marino's part-timers step out at Wembley they will be the biggest ever betting underdogs in a football match.
San Marino can be backed at 150-1 with the bookies to beat England. To put that in context, William Hill offers 100-1 that scientists announce the existence of the Yeti or the Loch Ness monster in the next 12 months. Listening to San Marino's likeable manager, Giampaolo Mazza, you would be better off backing Bigfoot.
"The only thing certain is that we will lose," he said. "We will play a very defensive game and try and limit the chances for their strikers. The number of goals [we allow] will depend on our performance and the last few minutes of the game, when we tend to concede more."
Mazza's emphasis on damage limitation is merely practical. Since 1990 San Marino have lost 108 of 114 international matches, scoring 19 goals and conceding 473. Germany thumped 13 past them in 2006; Holland 11 last year. San Marino's nickname is La Serenissima – the most serene – a poetically accurate description of their performances.
Such results have led to suggestions that San Marino do not deserve to be in the World Cup qualifiers – or should face a pre-qualifying tournament with other minnows, such as Liechtenstein and Andorra. But Mazza, a PE teacher, emphatically disagrees.
"San Marino is an independent state and it takes part in this competition with every right," he said. "We expect a good performance from our team, despite the difficulty of the match."
According to Fifa, San Marino are the joint-worst international team in the world, alongside Bhutan and the Turks and Caicos Islands. Any system that ranks England as the fifth-best team in the world must be treated with care, but still: San Marino are 75 places behind São Tomé e Príncipe – a tiny, impoverished west African island – and 32 places below American Samoa, who were beaten 31-0 by Australia in 2001.
It's a situation that Mazza acknowledges needs to improve. "We are aware of our recent drop in our level," he said. "It's an issue we are trying to tackle. So we now ensure that our players train together at least for three days a week, Monday to Wednesday, before they go back to their clubs."
Few suspect this beefed-up training regime will disturb John Bull. Indeed, Bet365 has made San Marino their biggest ever footballing underdogs. "Punters are backing England to win by a cricket score, with 8-0, 9-0 and 10-0, particularly popular," said spokesman Steve Freeth.
William Hill's Graeme Sharpe concurs, claiming: "In all my years I can't recall another team at bigger odds in a three-horse race. Even if a non-league team played Manchester City away in the FA Cup, the price wouldn't be that large because you'd expect City to play a weakened side. That said, 68% of the bets we've taken on the result have been on San Marino to win. People want to tell their friends they backed it."
Meanwhile on Betfair, San Marino have been traded at 579-1 to win, albeit for tiny amounts. When they played Holland that price was 599-1.
But while everyone is expecting a painful hiding, Mazza will send out his team in a 5-4-1 formation and hope fortune is on his side. It will need to be. San Marino's captain and leading scorer, Andy Selva, has a calf injury and will start on the bench, which means the team's only professional will be Mirko Palazzi, who plays for Rimini in Italy's fourth division.
"The way football is played in England is fantastic both from the players and the crowd," said Palazzi. "It is every player's dream to play in a stadium like Wembley and I'm fully charged with adrenaline."
Meanwhile, whatever happens at Wembley, Mazza will not lose too much sleep. "The result is not what matters for us, otherwise I would not have been coach of this team for 14 years," he said, allowing a wry smile. "We always try to honour the game. Whatever the result is I will accept it."
If he gets his wish, and San Marino's players frustrate, stifle and get some sort of respectable result, you only hope the sell-out crowd at Wembley reacts with similar magnanimity.