EVERY LOSER…LOSES SOMETHING LESS?
In the middle of a pretty parade of shops in the heart of San Marino you will find Micronics, a computer store that at first glance seems completely unremarkable. Step inside and you might catch a glimpse of football memorabilia and a familiar face behind the counter. The shop is owned by 52-year-old Davide Gualtieri, who scored the most famous goal in his national team’s history against England in 1993 after just 8.3 seconds. England went on to win 7-1, but the opening number proved to be the perfect punchline for the game in the Graham Taylor era – and Gualtieri still ensures Scottish fans call to say thank you. “For San Marino, that goal was like winning the World Cup,” Gualtieri said earlier this year. For this team, every goal is valuable – they have only scored 31 in their entire history. Between September 2021 and October 2023, the team, which was still reliably stuck at the bottom of the world rankings, scored one competitive goal. They lost 0-5 to Albania, 0-10 to England, 0-1 to ten-man St. Lucia, 0-2 at home to Malta, 0-6 to Finland and even sent five (in two games) to Northern Ireland.
Their record in qualifying for the 2024 European Championship was: played seven times, lost seven times, scored 0 points, conceded 24 goals. Then something completely unexpected happened. No, they haven’t started winning or even drawing games – we can’t move too quickly. But against Denmark, a team ranked 188 places above them, San Marino scored. And not just any goal – an equalizer perfectly scored by Alessandro Golinucci from a corner. They still lost, but only 2-1, and they did it last Friday another Simone Franciosi scored the goal in the 3-1 defeat in Kazakhstan. Attendance at the Astana Arena was 56,310; San Marino has a total population of around 34,000 – and the players celebrated as if the whole country was there.
“We scored, we scored, we did it again,” roared @SanMarino_FA, an unofficial feed on social media Cesspit TwiXer. “FRANCIOSI, you damn legend.” The account that has helped draw attention to the small republic’s football successes is run by Martino Bastianelli, a Dutch supporter of the team whose name would fit well on the Sammarinese’s bench. Could San Marino make history in their final qualifying game at home to Finland by scoring in three consecutive games? Things looked bleak after going behind, but when they were 2-0 down in stoppage time they won a penalty. Filippo Berardi stepped up, who sent the goalkeeper the wrong way and pushed him into the corner. “VELWOEBFJDKALANDBDJCNALAKSNDNXXBDBDJJEKSNDDNNDXNXNCNCNC,” her Netherlands-based hype man posted. We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.
The next challenge for La Serenissima is to win a game, for the first time since the 1-0 friendly win against Liechtenstein in 2004. The fans are demanding a game against Gibraltar, fresh from the 14-0 defeat against France. If they can maintain their current (relatively) red-hot form, games in the fourth division of the Nations League next year could offer the chance of a first ever competitive win. San Marino may not have a chance of actually qualifying for a tournament or doing more damage to a heavyweight than Gualteri did 30 years ago, but they have their own dreams to pursue. And yes, we may have written a lengthy diatribe yesterday about how “minnows being eaten in qualifying is good for almost no one” – but in football, as in Football Daily, there are plenty, and San Marino, the biggest losers of the world, deserves her place among them.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“People praised the way I went about it… it was too much.” That’s exactly how I am. I understand that some people prefer to shy away from it, but I’m different. It’s just me. Even the clubs are now cautious about doing medical checks, from the Premier League to League Two, which is huge. In our game we talk about injuries, but you never think about cancer” – Former Cardiff and Middlesbrough defender Sol Bamba talks to Dominic Booth about how his world was changed by non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, his bond with Neil Warnock and his get into coaching.
I suspect that the tone of a report on a European minnows game with England 14-0 would have been a very different tone to that of France 14-0 against Gibraltar (yesterday’s Football Daily). But then we’ll never know, will we?” – Sharon Hammond.
In the boys’ U-11 league in Maryland at the time, there was a rule that if you were 6-0 up at halftime, you weren’t allowed to score in the second half to give the other team a chance be traumatized to stop football. When I think about it, I have never seen a French international in our league” – Jeremy Foxon.
Send all letters to [email protected]. Today’s Letter of the Day winner is…Jeremy Foxon, who gets his hands on a copy of Arsène Who? by Ryan Baldi. We’ve got more to give away all week, so get typing.
The latest Football Weekly podcast is here, here, here.