London, UK -- (SBWIRE) -- 10/15/2012 -- Having made such an easy start to Group H when thrashing Moldova 5-0 in Chisinau, England stumbled to a 1-1 draw versus Ukraine last time out and they now take on San Marino on Friday before a visit to Warsaw to face Poland early next week.
Elsewhere on Friday, the Republic of Ireland host Germany, a country the Irish so memorably drew with 1-1 in the 2002 World Cup, and a struggling Wales line-up against Scotland in the ‘Battle of Britain’.
It’s no exaggeration to say San Marino are one of the worst football teams in international history. In 113 games as a national side they have only ever won one game, a 1-0 win over fellow perennial losers, Liechtenstein.
The Three Lions have played the Italian microstate twice before in World Cup qualification and managed to smash 13 goals past the minnows over the two games. San Marino, however, did manage to score once but, considering only one San Marino player in their history has scored more than two goals for the national side, Hodgson won’t be too worried by their attack.
Poland will surely provide a sterner test on Tuesday. Although the Eastern Europeans have only beaten England once in 17 encounters, they have drawn six times and famously prevented England from going to the 1974 World Cup with a stubborn performance in a 1-1 stalemate at Wembley.
England have won five of the last six games and have only failed to score against the Poles in three matches - two were 0-0 draws in Poland. Both Frank Lampard and Jermain Defoe have scored in their last appearances versus this team.
Perhaps surprisingly, Ireland boast a decent record against European giants Germany. From 16 meetings the Irish have triumphed on five occasions to Germany’s seven. The sides have only met three times competitively with two draws and a German win. None of the last five games have seen more than two goals scored.
Wales sit bottom of Group A having lost both their opening games and host Scotland on the back of a 6-1 humiliation in Serbia. Scotland haven’t fared too much better, drawing with both Serbia and Macedonia in games they really had to have won if they can realise aspirations of making their first World Cup since 1998.
The pair have met six times in World Cup qualifying previously and Scotland have the upper hand with three wins and only one loss. In their last three most recent games, all friendlies, one side has scored at least three goals in every game; Wales have won 3-0 and 4-0 and Scotland 3-1. Overall Scotland have won 61 of the 105 meetings with Wales winning just 21.
Northern Ireland drew with Luxembourg at home back in September and a visit to Portugal is unlikely to see their fortunes change. Remarkably though, in eight World Cup qualifying clashes against the Iberians, the records are tied with two wins apiece and four draws. In the two other games when they've met, Portugal have won one and the other was a tie.
Only two of the ten games featured more than two goals and seven of the matches finished either 1-0 or 1-1. Only two games have seen a winning margin of more than one. Northern Ireland’s 3-0 win in 1957 is the biggest winning margin.
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