To many English football supporters, especially those fortunate souls yet to reach their 30s, the name Davide Gualtieri will mean very little but he holds a special place in the history of the national team.
Now a computer salesman, back in 1993 Gualtieri scored the fastest goal in World Cup qualification history as he took just 8.3 seconds to give San Marino a sensational 1-0 lead against England and although the Three Lions went on to win the match 7-1, the strike just about summed up manager Graham Taylor’s disastrous reign.
The two teams have met several times since but none of the clashes have been as eventful as that one 21 years ago and as the pair prepare to renew hostilities at Wembley in a Euro 2016 qualifier tonight (Thursday), current England boss Roy Hodgson will be hoping his side avoid their own ‘Gualtieri moment’ and get the job done without incident.
They’ll win of course, of that there is no doubt, hence their odds of just 1/100 with Stan James but conceding a goal to the minnows – ranked 208th in the world and priced at 80/1 by BetVictor to come out on top – would be a huge embarrassment for the hosts.
The Sammarinese are 18/1 via bet365 to stun the Three Lions by opening the scoring again and 6/1 at Ladbrokes to notch at any stage but as Hodgson’s men are just 1/12 (betway) to prevail ‘to nil’, punters looking to profit from the clash should effectively be speculating simply on how many times England will find the net or who will grab those goals.
A 6-0 home victory is the current correct score favourite at 13/2 courtesy of Paddy Power while Stan James mark 7/1 against a 5-0 triumph and William Hill offer 10/1 about the Three Lions netting seven times without reply. Alternatively, sceptics can tackle a repeat of 1993’s 7-1 scoreline at odds of 25/1 (Skybet).
In attack, Wayne Rooney, perhaps rather inevitably, heads bet365’s first scorer market at 9/4, Danny Welbeck is hot on his heels at 3/1 (BetVictor) and bet365 price Raheem Sterling at 5/1. Finally, for those sensing that a set piece could yield the initial England breakthrough, William Hill chalk Gary Cahill up at 20/1 to open the scoring.
It will be a tougher test for England on Sunday as they head to Estonia but the outcome, in terms of points gained, should be identical with Hodgson’s charges available at 2/9 (BetVictor) in the early betting.
Like England, the Irish are a banker to emerge victorious in their qualifier this week, as they come up against Gibraltar. Ladbrokes go 1/50 about Martin O’Neill’s men snaring a maximum haul in Dublin, where the visitors are 50/1 (Stan James) while Winner.com post 11/2 against a 5-0 home win and it’s 13/5 courtesy of bet365 for Robbie Keane to break the deadlock.
Elsewhere, Wales are BetVictor’s 9/4 underdogs as they entertain Bosnia tomorrow (Friday), Skybet quote odds of 4/5 for Scotland to get the better of Georgia and it’s 1/4 at Stan James for Northern Ireland to overcome the Faroe Islands.
Arch rivals St Helens and defending champions Wigan face-off in the Super League Grand Final on Saturday, with the Warriors looking to capture their third title in the space of five years.
Ahead of the mouth-watering Old Trafford showdown, Paddy Power give Shane Wane’s charges the nod at 4/9 to retain their crown while Saints are bet365’s 2/1 outsiders to end a sequence of five losing appearances in the final.
However, the regular season table-toppers have carried their league form into the play-off series and enjoyed an easier passage to this weekend’s scrap and so they’ve perhaps been underestimated a touch. Nathan Brown’s men may, therefore, be worth an interest at 10/11 in Stan James’s handicaps, where they benefit from an eight-point start.
The F1 Drivers Championship heads to the Sochi Autodrom for the Russian Grand Prix for the first time but despite a lack of track form for punters to go on, Lewis Hamilton is hard to oppose at 8/11 with BetVictor as he seeks a fourth win on the spin.
His Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg is 11/5 at Paddy Power to close the gap in the standings by claiming victory while Red Bull’s Daniel Riccardo could be the best of the rest, the Aussie a generous 11/10 (betway) to secure a podium finish.
Bet of the week: England to beat San Marino 5-0 – 7/1 (Stan James).
Odds supplied by www.betrescue.com