England put eight past San Marino in a hopeless mismatch to set themselves up for the game against Montenegro
Well that wasn't much of a match. Still, eight goals were fun. England have set themselves up well for Tuesday's crucial match away to Montenegro, who stayed two points clear with a hard-fought 1-0 win away to Moldova earlier this evening. We'll leave the last word of the night to the San Marino FA's Twitter account.
Bring on Montenegro.
88 min: It seems I've missed San Marino's FA - assuming it is they - taking potshots at ITV all night on Twitter. Find out more here.
87 min: "Watching France Georgia here in Paris and the French are ecstatic about the Spain draw," says Phil Hall. "They'll be putting everyone but Benzema behind the ball next Tuesday."
That, by the way, is a match you can watch live on this website on Tuesday night.
86 min: Defoe really wants that hat-trick. Young slips him through and he clips an odd effort wide his left foot. Although it might well have been a pass intended for Sturridge. Maybe that's why he never passes.
84 min: I hope they at least enjoyed the pre-match episode of Emmerdale. Anyway England attack again and Defoe almost has his hat-trick, glancing Walker's cross inches wide at the near post.
83 min: I'm not sure if this is real, but it's entertaining nonetheless. I hope they haven't been reading this report.
82 min: Well well, Spain have drawn 1-1 at home with Finland. Overrated.
81 min: Another substitution, Bollini trotting off to be replaced by Valentini.
80 min: Young sends Oxlade-Chamberlain sprinting off down the left flank but Simoncini does well to collect his cross. "Is this the first time ever that 6 different England players have scored in the same match?" says Matt Turner. "Come on Scott Parker!" I don't know. Does anyone?
79 min: England haven't scored nine goals since 1982.
It might be against the most meagre of opposition, but this is still an outstanding goal. Oxlade-Chamberlain stabbed an excellent, toepoked pass over the left of the San Marino defence for Kyle Walker to chase. He reached it before it went out and pulled it back for Defoe, who Kanu'd the ball home from six yards out.
75 min: Rinaldi, who missed a good chance at Wembley back in October, replaces Selva. He's on in time to see Baines try to add an eighth for England with a free-kick but Simoncini pushes his effort away.
71 min: This is the first time England have scored seven since ... they beat San Marino 7-1 in that game 20 years ago.
This time Sturridge doesn't miss when presented with an open goal and he has his first for England. Ashley Young got in behind on the left and his cross to the far post was comfortably headed home by Sturridge from close range.
69 min: Here's interesting - Finland have just scored a late goal and it's Spain 1-1 Finland with not long left. In the other game in that group, France are 3-0 up against Georgia, a win that would take them two points above Spain, who they host on Tuesday.
68 min: Montenegro have beaten Moldova 1-0, so they will stay two points ahead of England. Meanwhile Buscarini is on for Cibelli.
67 min: Scott E. Parker replaces Frank Lampard.
66 min: Nothing. And England race up the other end, looking for a seventh goal. Oxlade-Chamberlain shows his man a clean pair of heels and his cross is headed away to Osman, whose miscued volley goes over.
65 min: In San Marino's fifth qualifying game, Selva has just won them their third corner. What can they do with it?
64 min: Joleon Lescott surges forward and plays a pass to Oxlade-Chamberlain on the edge of the area. His shot, hit with the outside of his right boot, is a couple of yards over the bar.
62 min: San Marino have their first shot! It came from a mix-up between Joe Hart - I'd forgotten he was playing - and England's defenders, who got themselves into a bit of a pickle at the back. The ball was nicked off them but Bollini's shot from 25 yards was miles off target.
61 min: Defoe breaks clear down the right but his shot whizzes into the side-netting.
60 min: What a miss from Sturridge! Walker stands up a cross to the far post and with the goal gaping Sturridge's header hits the post and goes behind. Could that be a turning point?
59 min: Cervellini is booked, thus earning him a first mention in this MBM. "Re: Giampaolo Mazza: he's done well to remain in charge for so long, when you consider the Sammarinese FA chairman is such Afikoman," honks Darren Beach.
57 min: A couple of stepovers from Sturridge help him past Della Valle on the right. The San Marino defender has a tug on Sturridge's shirt as he enters the area and is fortunate that the England manager did Ray Wilkins proud by staying on his feet.
56 min: England replace Wayne Rooney and Tom Cleverley with Daniel Sturridge and Leon Osman.
55 min: The ten men of Montenegro have taken the lead against Moldova.
Wayne Rooney has his goal, although a proper goalkeeper probably would have saved this free-kick. It had a decent amount of curl on it but it wasn't struck with particular force and wasn't right in the left corner either. But in it went and England have six.
53 min: Davide Simoncini, who looks like David Ferrer, is booked after flying through Tom Cleverley. England have a free-kick around 25 yards out.
52 min: "This is hardly the match to judge this sort of thing but just based on form this year, is it safe to say that the torch of “best English left back” has been passed to the mop-topped Baines?" says Mark Everhart. I'd still pick Ashley Cole over him. He's still an exceptional defender.
51 min: "How do you feel about Israel being in a European competition and also, whom would you support should the lions ever meet the doves?" says Michael Aston. I don't think I feel anything about it. As for the second question, I don't really support anyone when it comes to international football.
50 min: After an extended spell of pressure on the edge of the area Rooney opens up his body and tries to whip one into the top corner. Simoncini pushes it over the bar. Rooney still hasn't scored tonight.
47 min: San Marino just kept the ball for about a minute. England have it again, but still.
46 min: Right, off we go again. San Marino get the second half underway. Double figures please, England!
Montenegro are down to 10 men against Moldova. It's 0-0 in the second half. Poland are also 2-0 down at home to Ukraine.
YOUR half-time emails.
"I've got a tenner riding on England to win this 37-0," says Jon Wilde. "That Arbroath v Bon Accord record has to go sooner or later. Tonight could be the night as Rod Stewart didn't quite sing."
"Now you've mentioned the pearls of wisdom Messrs Tyldesley and Townsend have presented us with this evening, are you tempted to ignore the actual footy and just go for an IBI (Inanity By Inanity)?" says David Hopkins.
"Instead of wondering how many goals we're going to get tonight, what are the odds on there being 11 different names on the scoresheet?" says Adam Wright. "With Della Valle making up for Hart obviously."
"Yawn, I'm bored watching this," says Matt Dony. "The only thing that's keeping me in front of the tv is marvelling at San Marino's keeper, and his astonishing similarity to Sylar from Heroes. I'm imagining him examining Baines' brain, to try and unlock his special footballing powers so he can use them himself. It'd make the second half more interesting." Now there was a show that tailed off quickly.
"Really interested in the England fans who are there tonight," says Peter Foster. "Either they live in Italy, or they seriously think that travelling to Italy to watch this nonsense is money well spent. Is the atmosphere around these games really worth the price of the trip? Are they all loaded? Or are they addicted to Ingerland to a ridiculous extent?" I know some people who have gone.
"Top 4, really?" says Adam Kingston. "I always had an idea that the familiarity players have with each other and the common systems they play would give them a significant advantage over national teams. I can see England hovering around mid-table. With Stoke." Somewhere around the top four.
"Wish ITV had your miserablist approach to describing football matches instead of that weirdly upbeat way they always do it," says David Leach. "Describing that as "A very satisfying half by England" makes me jealous of how easily Clive Tyldsley must get satisfaction."
"This is the biggest mismatch since Charles and Di," says Gary Naylor. "San Marino is a lovely place, but it really should only compete in the Eurovision Song Contest and Miss World. There's Italy for everything else."
"re: Lampard's cute ass, my own 'cute ass' has been responsible for plenty of attempted - and frequently successful - curlers, but this has never earned me local acclaim, only local disdain," says Joe Norman.
Who needs Rio Ferdinand*?
45 min: Defoe tees up Rooney, but he's off-balance as he tries to curl one in from the edge of the area and it's an easy save for Simoncini.
44 min: A chant, there, of "Rio Ferdinand, you know what you are". What, praytell, might he be, clever England fans?
43 min: England fans are singing nasty songs about Rio Ferdinand.
I think England have got this one. Young finds the excellent Baines on the overlap and his cross from the byline is confidently tucked home by Lampard, who sends a low right-footer past Simoncini.
41 min: "With all of this talk about centre backs, why are we playing any at all?" says David Leach. "Seems pointless. We should play the game with just 8 players to give 'em a chance."
I'd question what the point of playing this game is.
This is a brilliant goal from Ashley Young, who lets fly with his right foot from 25 yard out and sends the ball screaming past the despairing Simoncini. Pleasingly it hit the underside of the bar as it flew into the top-right corner.
38 min: Lampard beats a couple of players and has a pop from the edge of the area. Simoncini holds at the second attempt. "The England fans would not be singing 'Are you Scotland in disguise?' if they could actually see the Scotland - Wales games," says Simon McMahon. "San Marino would beat Scotland on the evidence so far."
And now Defoe does have his tap-in and he likes a tap-in, that's for sure, so he'll be pleased with that. Rooney hoicks a cross to the far post from the left. Oxlade-Chamberlain rises highest and heads down. The header's so tame that it deceives Simoncini, dribbling past him apologetically, and Defoe makes sure from a yard out.
34 min: England have the ball in the net, but the flag is up for offside against Defoe. Lampard's cute
ass pass sent Young through on goal on the right. Suddenly he thinks he's playing for Spain, drawing the keeper and rolling it across for Defoe to tap in. He obliges but the flag is up, perhaps incorrectly. "That's a disappointing one, because for him, he likes a tap-in, that's for sure," says Andy Townsend. I'd love to try to work out the logic behind that sentence.
33 min: Clive Tyldesley has just claimed that there is a bit of "ingenuity" about England. This is untrue.
32 min: "At 24 mins did you write, or am I sozzled and hopeful,
Lampard's cute ass sets up Young on the left of the area but his attempted curler is deflected over for another corner," says Russell Child.
31 min: That was Oxlade-Chamberlain's second goal for England. His first came against San Marino. Can he play them every week?
I think this might just be over. With everyone in danger of nodding off or trotting off to listen to LMFAO songs, Oxlade-Chamberlain suddenly injects some life into proceedings. He combines with Walker on the right, produces some neat skill on the edge of the area and plays a sharp one-two with Rooney. His clever touch takes him inside and then, from around 12 yards out, he slashes a finish high past Simoncini with his left foot, enjoyably shooting just as Rooney was about to nab the ball off him.
28 min: "You should pass over puns like that Jacob," says James Furlong. "They'll just result in an Exodus from this MBM." I'm not going to rise to that one.
27 min: I'm now listening to LMFAO. It's come to this.
26 min: I think I'd rather be listening to LMFAO's I'm sexy and I know it on a permanent loop.
25 min: "Is there any way of shutting up that God-awful bunch of "musicians" who plague every England game?" says Sean Murphy. I'm close to losing it here. They've been going since the first minute.
24 min: Lampard's cute pass sets up Young on the left of the area but his attempted curler is deflected over for another corner.
22 min: Young's volley is deflected behind for another corner. It's taken short. They find Baines. He can't find Lampard. "What about your non-Jewish friends?" says Mister Justin. "Can't they enjoy your bon mot/word association game too?" Well I suppose you can.
21 min 12 sec: San Marino are now in their own half.
21 min 10 sec: San Marino are in England's half.
20 min: Rooney crosses from the right. It's only cleared as far as Oxlade-Chamberlain, whose snapshot is deflected over by Vitaioli. Lampard heads the corner over.
19 min: That's one for my Jewish friends.
18 min: The San Marino coach is called Giampaolo Mazza. It's a shame this game isn't next week.
17 min: "Are you Scotland in disguise?" sing the England fans, who are really showing them.
16 min: It should be 2-0. Baines curls a corner in from the left and Lampard's downward header comes to Defoe at the far post. He's all alone, three yards out, but he can only head it over the bar. That's a bad miss.
14 min: San Marino have been given the sympathy vote here. Young flings a high cross into the area from the left. It's too high and Simoncini sprints off his line to claim it confidently - only to drop it and then snatch the ball back as it drops into the D. It should be a free-kick and possibly a red card but the Swiss referee does a Lee Probert and sees no wrongdoing.
There we go. A lovely pass over the top finds Leighton Baines rushing in behind the San Marino defence on the left. He doesn't bother messing about and knocks the ball into the middle, with the intention of finding Rooney at the far post. It doesn't reach him though because Della Valle gets there first, albeit turning the ball into his own net from six yards out. Ah.
11 min: You've just got to take your chances at this level.
10 min: Hey, wouldn't it be funny if England contrive not to score? They should be at least two or three up already but it's still level. This time, Rooney headed a ball down for the onrushing Oxlade-Chamberlain, who lifted a delicate lob over the stranded Simoncini and on to the face of the bar and away to safety.
9 min: England have had around six or seven corners already, although they haven't really troubled San Marino from any of them yet.
7 min: This isn't going to take very long, is it. San Marino fall asleep at a set-piece as England take a free-kick quickly. The ball comes to Oxlade-Chamberlain on the right of the area and after a scuffle for possession, it breaks through to Lampard, whose effort from a relatively tight angle is pushed over by Simoncini. That's an excellent save. Lampard could have teed up Defoe, mind you.
6 min: "First, if San Marino were an English club side, how far down the pyramid would they have to go in order to be competitive?" says Rich Lovie. "And in a similar vein, if England were a club side, where would they finish (assuming we ignore that the players couldn't play for their respective clubs)?"
1. I reckon they could beat QPR.
2. Somewhere around the top four.
5 min: England threaten again, a long ball over the top finding Rooney. He expects a flag to go up for offside so ends up taking too long to get his shot away, allowing Della Valle to recover and concede a corner. Lescott heads Young's corner over."San Marino's all-tine scorer has 8 goals?" says Hubert O'Hearn. "That has to be one for The Knowledge. heck, Jamie Carragher has 3 for Spurs while not playing for Spurs. I love the charm of minnows playing sharks (or in England's case, perhaps a plumpish trout), but really...why is this team here? There, now settle back for shock San Marino 2 - 1 England upset. I have applied my jinx. Place your bets accordingly."
3 min: The first chance for England. Defoe streaks down the left flank, making his way into the San Marino area. He waits for support, unusually for him, and then lays the ball back for Lampard, who's made one of his trademark runs. A goal looks certain but Bollini's last-ditch block sends it behind. The corner comes to nothing.
2 min: San Marino have set themselves up in a 9-0-1 formation. "Apparently police have today evicted two dozen Amazon natives from an old Indian museum that will be demolished to clear areas adjacent to Brazil's legendary Maracana soccer stadium for next year's World Cup," says Justin Kavanagh. "Perhaps those England supporters in your photo have concluded that they'll have to battle through Amazonian conditions to even get to their games in Brazil, and are getting in training early? The British empire wasn't built by softies, after all."
Right, let's do this. England get us going. They're kicking from left to right and manage not to concede inside 13 seconds. And they say no progress has been made in the last 20 years. The England band are quickly into their stride and so is Andy Townsend. Where's the mute button?
The anthems. First the English. It's about saving Gary Breen. Think I heard that one. Let's hope Rio Ferdinand is listening anyway. Rather embarrassingly the English contingent in the crowd had finished well before the music was over. That's always awkward. Next it's San Marino's offering. None of their players are bothering to sing. That might be because it contains no words. All that done, next it's time for the teams to play a football "match".
And here come the teams. They're walking out to some jaunty music. It sounds a bit like the theme tune to an American cop show from the 80s. Something including someone who's too much of a maverick for his own good. San Marino are in blue tracksuits, England in white.
Lest we forget. Oh England.
So apparently this match is being held at the Stadio Olimpico. I'm sure I've been reading something about those in the news recently. Anyway some crafty England fans have noticed that it's not the most state-of-the-art arena and are hiding in the trees behind the goal, laying down their flags and setting up camp on the grass. What a green and glorious land. If I didn't know better, I'd say they're planning to re-start The Empire. About bloody time.
What's the craziest* thing you've done to (*not that those fans are crazy)?
According to this picture, Matteo Coppini is an olive oil company. Anyway good to know that San Marino's players have other jobs. You don't see us getting all excited about Joe Hart moonlighting as a salesman for Head & Shoulders.
Elsewhere in the group, the leaders, Montenegro, are playing Moldova. England's failure to beat Poland and Ukraine means that they are two points behind Montenegro in the group; it's unlikely that's going to change too much tonight. Hodgson's assistant, Gary Neville, has gone to Moldova to take notes for a special scouting project.
And here, without further ado, is the England team. Theo Walcott has pulled out of both this match and Tuesday's trip to Montenegro with a groin injury, so Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain starts. Hodgson has also rested Steven Gerrard and Ashley Cole. And Rio Ferdinand. There's no sign of the San Marino team yet, but hopefully Davide Gualtieri is playing. Honk!
San Marino: Aldo Simoncini; Fabio Vitaioli, Palazzi, Alessandro Della Valle, Davide Simoncini, Cervellini, Gasperoni, Cibelli, Fabio Bollini, Selva, Matteo Vitaioli. Subs: Federico Valentini, Bacciocchi, Bianchi, Buscarini, Coppini, Alex Della Valle, Rinaldi, Carlo Valentini, Vannucci.
England: Hart; Walker, Smalling, Lescott, Baines; Cleverley, Lampard, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Rooney, Young; Defoe. Subs: Parker, Foster, Cole, Taylor, Caulker, Milner, Gerrard, Carrick, Osman, Welbeck, Sturridge, Forster.
Referee: Alain Bieri (Switzerland)
Footballing reasons. That's what they said. Footballing reasons were why Roy Hodgson decided to take Martin Kelly to Euro 2012 instead of Rio Ferdinand, winner of four Premier League titles and a Champions League, plus a veteran of two World Cups. We never did find out what those footballing reasons were. Hey, maybe there weren't any. It's a rum old mystery, all right and while none of the above should be taken as a criticism of Kelly, an accomplished youngster who possesses all the necessary talent to become a fine defender, his selection could not be justified and, in any case, this is Rio Ferdinand we're talking about. Rio Ferdinand!
Since then, Ferdinand has seen the likes of Gary Cahill, Steven Caulker, Ryan Shawcross, Phil Jagielka, Chris Smalling, Joleon Lescott – and John Terry – picked ahead of him for various important matches, despite the fact that he has been in impeccable form for Manchester United this season. There was also The Tube Episode, when Hodgson was taught the value of never making eye-contact with anyone on the London Underground – but now, now that Hodgson has realised that the current crop aren't up to much and that Ferdinand is still the best defender at his disposal.
One problem there: he's not at his disposal. To some, Ferdinand's withdrawal was a case of "well look who's come crawling back". Ferdinand has argued otherwise, talking about the "intricate pre-planned programme" which has seen him jet off to Qatar to do some punditry this evening, but there are those who are thoroughly defended by his stance. Something about patriotism, Three Lions and Terry Butcher. Well, perhaps Ferdinand might have handled it better, but what exactly does he owe England? The Football Association's handling of the situation has been farcical, while Hodgson's man-management and communication skills have been shown to be sorely lacking. Would you be rushing back? We talk of the entitlement and arrogance of players – but what of governing bodies and managers?
Anyway it won't make any difference tonight. England are playing San Marino. It would be funny if it did, though.
An exercise in shooting fish in a barrel begins at: 8pm.