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World Cup qualifying preview: England v San Marino

Anything less than a big win will be a disappointment for England as they prepare to face San Marino at Wembley on Friday.

The 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifier is a genuine mismatch with Roy Hodgson’s side ranked fifth in the world, 202 places above their opponents.

No country in the world is ranked lower than Giampaolo Mazza’s side, with Bhutan and the Turks and Caicos Islands joining them at 207th in the world.

San Marino have lost their last 47 matches and have won just once from 112 matches overall.

They have scored 19 goals, conceding 480 in the process, making the result of the match almost a foregone conclusion.

But for Hodgson, a series of issues still to resolve mean the Group H clash carries a lot more weight than simply the result.

Firstly, the experienced manager must choose how to approach life without John Terry.

The Chelsea captain decided to retire from international football a fortnight ago, just before the Football Association found him guilty of racially abusing Queens Park Rangers defender Anton Ferdinand.

Terry – who made 78 appearances for his country and was a mainstay at the back – was injured for last month’s 1-1 draw against Ukraine, also in a World Cup qualifier, with Phil Jagielka and Joleon Lescott deputising at the back.

Both played together at Everton and Hodgson could stick with the pair, but he also has options in Chelsea’s Gary Cahill or Stoke City’s uncapped Ryan Shawcross.

And with Manchester United duo Phil Jones and Chris Smalling still out injured, Hodgson has an array of options at his disposal despite the high-profile exit of Terry.

Despite abusing the FA on Twitter, left-back Ashley Cole has avoided suspension and should play, which would give him his 99th cap for his country.

Everton’s Leighton Baines is likely to make way despite his impressive form at Goodison Park.

The England boss also has selection headaches up front, with Manchester United forward Wayne Rooney set to return after suffering a gashed thigh in August, while the likes of Jermain Defoe and Andy Carroll have impressed at club level.

Rooney needs the run and is expected to play but Hodgson is likely to also experiment with sections of his squad against an unheralded opponent, particularly given his side face a tougher qualifier in Poland on Tuesday.

Fri 12 Oct, 2012
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