Amy Lawrence was online answering your questions about today's World Cup 2014 qualifiers
Good morning. Amy Lawrence will be online at midday to answer your questions about this weekend's football.
San Marino are unlikely to come away with anything other than a heavy defeat tonight. Even Giampaolo Mazza, their likeable manager, is keeping a lid on his expectations: "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."
Were San Marino to pull off an almighty shock at Wembley tonight, like they did in 1993 by scoring first against England, it would take the bookies by some surprise. As Sean Ingle has reported, San Marino can be backed at 150-1: "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."
England are not facing the most taxing of fixtures, but there are some fascinating encounters taking place elsewhere. Russia host Portugal; Belgium travel to Serbia; and the Republic of Ireland welcome Germany to the Aviva tonight. In a match that could prove critical for both teams and their managers, Scotland play Wales tonight in Cardiff.
Here is the full schedule for today's World Cup 2014 qualifiers:
Russia v Portugal
Finland v Georgia
Czech Republic v Malta
Faroe Islands v Sweden
Kazakhstan v Austria
Armenia v Italy
Albania v Iceland
Turkey v Romania
Liechtenstein v Lithuania
Moldova v Ukraine
Belarus v Spain
Bulgaria v Denmark
Slovakia v Latvia
Switzerland v Norway
Macedonia v Croatia
Serbia v Belgium
Estonia v Hungary
Holland v Andorra
Greece v Bosnia-Herzegovina
Slovenia v Cyprus
Republic of Ireland v Germany
Wales v Scotland
England v San Marino
Luxembourg v Israel
If you have any questions for Amy, drop them into the comments section below.
Amy is in the comment section answering your questions.
Blatantfraud starts things off with a question about UEFA's policy on smaller nations: "Amy, can you explain the reasoning behind teams like San Marino and the Faroe Islands being allowed to compete in the major international tournaments?"
Did you ever notice FIFA's motto is "for the good of the game?" Personally I always suspected it might have something to do with for the good of FIFA's bank account. Having a large number of members, some of might feel the need to express their gratitude in times of voting, is surely purely incidental.
The inclusion of smaller teams is a double edged sword - on the one hand football should be inclusive and open to all, on the other a more streamlined approach to qualification campaigns (perhaps with pre-qualifiers) makes sense when football is usually dominated by the stronger, richer nations.
TranmereSam asks about Wales' goalkeeping situation: "Who do you think should start in goal for Wales given that Tranmere's Owain fon Williams is only regular starter of the three goalkeepers called up to the squad? Jason Brown and Lewis Price have two appearances between them this season; fon Williams has managed more than that in a week and is a part of the best defence in his league. Surely he deserves a chance?"
My compliments on your analysis of the Welsh goalkeeping situation. I could pretend I have something to add, or be truthful and say that you make a very good case for Fon Williams.
CreatureOfTheNight asks about the new England captain: "Do you think Wayne Rooney fulfilled his potential?
There is, perhaps, a distinction to be made between Rooney fulfilling his potential for United, and for England. He is hardly the only player in the last couple of decades for which the question applies as to why it is often a struggle to replicate club form for country. It seems to be the rule rather than the exception with England. I thought Patrick Vieira's comments the other day were interesting – albeit with a hilarious case of pot calling the kettle black. France's players in the past two finals hardly seemed to be burning with enthusiasm for international football.
But more generally, there is an issue where top players who are used to competing for major honours with their club, and playing regularly on the Champions League stage, appear less desperate to be involved and do well than in bygone eras.
I wouldn't put Rooney in the category of players who lack passion for playing for England. Not at all. I think he is the type of person who would give everything playing for just about anybody. If he hasn't excelled to his peak, on a consistent basis, for England, that perhaps has more to do with the weird pressures England players put themselves under, and the team's general inhibitions.
Pabloelbrujo asks about Sunderland's new winger: "Now that Adam Johnson has moved to the North East do you think he will be picked for England again?"
Adam Johnson? Maybe he will get another chance, but arguably he would have been better off moving to the Liverpool area to catch the eye of Roy Hodgson. I expect if he can put together three months of solidly effective performances he will come back into the reckoning.
CredeSigno asks: "Given how nationalistic the Russian press are, how has Fabio Capello's failure to speak Russian gone down with them? Assume it's not as much of an issue as was made out to be by certain sections of the English press?"
Interesting point. But given the number of overseas coaches Russia have employed recently – and I would be surprised if any of them got a handle of anything other than rudimentary Russian – I expect the press are used to it. They haven't had a domestic coach since 2006, at which point Guus Hiddink and then Dick Advocaat took control. I am very curious to see how the relationship between Russia and Don Fabio pans out.
CredeSigno asks: "Is Group E of the European section of the World Cup qualifiers the dullest group ever?"
Maybe. But are you really that excited about group G?
CredeSigno asks: "Amy, did you laugh when you heard Craig Levein claim Scotland could still qualify if they don't beat Wales?"
What are the hopes for Scotland and Wales supporters for this qualification campaign? Not just in terms of results or positions, but in terms of where the country's football is going or could hope to go? Being realistic, it is hard to see a successful finish from a group with Croatia, Serbia and Belgium in it.
promisinglight asks: "What's your take on Ilombé Mboyo's inclusion in the Belgian squad?"
Re Mboyo, it is clearly an incredibly complex situation. I do suggest you take a listen to what Paul Doyle had to say about this case on Football Weekly if you have a chance. It seems Mboyo was a talented player, but a conviction for a violent rape at the age of 16, and a prison sentence, obviously put a stop to football. He claims to have had an epiphany in prison, acknowledging the horrors he was responsible for, and got a second chance at his career. His call up for Belgium has been a complicated one, with people across the moral spectrum arguing that he should be included, absolutely shouldn't be included, and plenty in between.
I had an email from Ryan Dunne with the following point...
He says:I liked the recent point on the pod about the poor scheduling of international qualification games. Practically speaking, would there any way of having a summer qualification jamboree? I'd maintain that such a tournament would be more, not less likely, to garner attention and fill stadiums, but I suppose an argument could be made that the current system, although drawn out, does mean that teams won't suffer unnecessarily if (for example) their star player is out with a month-long injury.
I suspect if you did a straw poll of club managers, from major clubs, they would be rushing to sign up for a close season tournament in which all qualifiers were done. Even international managers often complain that it is difficult to get any work done with players over the limited time they currently get with their players. It would be positive in terms of a fresh level of interest and a momentum, and allow top players to do less travelling during the season. It would probably reduce the number of players called up, though, as over the course of an 18 month qualification campaign now, managers inevitably chop and change according to who is fit and in form. A condensed summer qualification would presumably have one squad throughout.
MrKiddon asks about tonight's game at the Aviva: "Do you think that if Ireland get smashed against Germany (which will happen) Trappatoni will be sacked or resign. If he does get the boot, who should Ireland get as a new manager?"
I don't think Trap will walk, but there may be very persuasive pressure on the FAI to act. They may even feel compelled to hire somebody cheaper soon enough, as results and performances are not currently justifying a big salary. It is a pity that Trap's spell with Ireland has taken such a dip. His first couple of years, in getting the team organised and achieving qualification for the Euros, was impressive. The team sheet against Germany is worrying, though.
Thanks for your comments and questions. Amy has now signed off.
For some additional reading this afternoon, we have a Golden Generation special in today's 10 things to look forward to in the World Cup qualifiers.
Sean Ingle's Joy of Six on sports stars in adverts is also worth a read.