England thrashes San Marino 8-0 in WCup qualifier

England showed no mercy in its World Cup qualifier against San

Marino on Friday, thrashing the joint-bottom team in the FIFA

rankings 8-0 to record its largest win in 26 years.

Jermain Defoe scored in each half, Wayne Rooney took his

international tally to 34 goals, and there were other goals from

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Frank Lampard, Ashley Young and Daniel

Sturridge at the Stadio Olimpico.

An own goal by Alessandro Della Valle set the visitors on the

way to their biggest margin of victory since an 8-0 win over Turkey

in a European Championship qualifier in 1987.

It was the perfect warm-up for England’s attackers ahead of

Tuesday’s crunch match against Group H leader Montenegro, which is

two points clear of Roy Hodgson’s side after five games and halfway

through qualifying.

”It couldn’t have been much better could it?” Hodgson said.

”I thought it was a very, very good, professional performance and

obviously we are a class above our opponents.”

Little can be read into this performance by a largely

second-string England lineup, however.

It was always going to be a case of how many the visitors racked

up against a team with just one win in history – in a friendly

against Liechtenstein in 2004 – and which was heading into the game

on the back of 50 losses in a row.

And by halftime, when England was 5-0 ahead, there was a chance

the national team’s record win – 13-0 over Ireland in 1882 – could

be threatened.

It was embarrassingly one-sided, and Germany coach Joachim Loew

would have used this game as evidence after arguing this week that

there should be a pre-qualifying round for the so-called smaller

nations. There was ironic applause whenever England goalkeeper Joe

Hart touched the ball.

The likes of captain Steven Gerrard, Ashley Cole and Glen

Johnson should return on Tuesday after being rested here, giving

fringe players a chance to stake their claims.

”I think it was one of those games where everyone brought his

straw to the water,” Hodgson said. ”I wouldn’t like to criticize

anyone.

”It was really good to see so many players, who haven’t got

many caps to their name, showing they deserve to be in the England

squad. When it’s their turn to play they can come up with the

goods.”

The match gave England’s players a chance to boost their goal

tallies – and Rooney’s goal inches him closer to Michael Owen, who

is fourth on the country’s all-time list with 40.

The first goal was actually scored by a San Marino player,

center back Della Valle turning the ball into his own net in the

12th from a cross by marauding left back Leighton Baines.

Oxlade-Chamberlain, who volleyed against the bar early on, made

it 2-0 in the 28th after exchanging a one-two with Rooney and then

headed down for Defoe to tap in for his first goal for club or

country in 2013.

There was still time in the final six minutes of the first half

for Young to smash in a wonderful 30-yard strike off the underside

of the bar, before Lampard coolly slotted in a sidefooted finish

after Rooney dummied a cut-back from Baines.

It was the first time England had scored five goals in a first

half since a win over Luxembourg in 1999, and the visitors weren’t

stopping there with Rooney getting in on the act with a curling

free kick in the 54th. Unsure of his place in Manchester United’s

starting lineup at present, Rooney is still the No. 1 striker for

England and he has now scored in four straight international

games.

Substitute Sturridge grabbed his first England goal by heading

in Young’s cross in the 70th, and Defoe wrapped up the scoring in

the 77th by flicking in a cross from Tottenham teammate Kyle

Walker.

”Often when you’re leading by that margin at halftime, the

second halves tend to die out but this one didn’t,” Hodgson

said.

England has a central-defensive injury crisis at the moment,

with Rio Ferdinand, Michael Dawson and Gary Cahill all pulling out

this week. But a backline containing no first-choice defenders

wasn’t troubled once in a professional display by Hodgson’s

men.