Sports Mole previews Monday’s Euro Champ Qualifying clash between San Marino and Finland, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
Minnows San Marino welcome Finland to Serravalle in a dead rubber to round off their respective Euro 2024 qualifying campaigns on Monday.
Despite heading towards another pointless campaign, San Marino did at least score in consecutive games for the first time in 18 years, by netting against Kazakhstan on Friday.
Even though San Marino lost their two previous matches to Denmark and Kazakhstan, leaving them bottom on zero points from nine games, every goal scored is celebrated like a win for the side ranked bottom in FIFA’s world rankings.
They were not too far away from recording their most famous-ever result recently either, against Denmark last month, coming within 20 minutes of a draw until losing narrowly 2-1.
Fabrizio Costantini‘s side also gave qualification hopefuls Kazakhstan a scare, pegging them back to 2-1 on Friday, before eventually conceding a late penalty which restored the hosts’ two-goal lead.
They are still no closer to a first-ever competitive win though, and their record in Euro qualifiers continues to get worse, as they have lost 84 of their 85 matches in it, with their only result being a 0-0 home draw with Estonia in November 2014.
San Marino have not suffered quite the level of thrashings they have been accustomed to though, conceding a relatively respectable 29 in their nine qualifiers.
A 6-0 defeat in the reverse to Finland was the low point, but they can take heart from scoring in two separate games, especially against group winners Denmark and holding Slovenia to minor defeats.
Another positive for the nation is that they no longer hold the record for the heaviest-ever European qualifying defeat, as France’s 14-0 demolition of Gibraltar’s 14-0 on Saturday beat their unwanted record set in a 13-0 loss against Germany in 2006.
After losing all four Nations League matches last year, San Marino were nowhere close to taking the one playoff spots allocated to League D, but Finland’s performance in the competition was enough, as they will be able to fall back on that after failure to progress in this group.
A shock defeat at home to Kazakhstan last month ended their hopes of finishing in the top two in what has been a very competitive group.
Their prospects looked very promising earlier in the campaign, as they were in the automatic qualifying positions following four straight wins between matchdays two and five.
However, a run of damaging defeats to Denmark, Slovenia and Kazakhstan saw them slip to fourth, and out of contention.
Their two trips to the Italian enclave have only produced narrow wins of 2-0 in 1995 and 1-0 in 2011, but Finland have recorded 6-0 and 8-0 wins over San Marino recently.
San Marino Euro Champ Qualifying form:
Finland Euro Champ Qualifying form:
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Alessandro Golinucci and Simone Franciosi added their names to Sammarinese football history by scoring in their last two games, and after becoming the sixth and seventh players in the squad to score for their country, both should start again, as another appearance for Golinucci will take him to 50 caps for his country.
On the injury front for the hosts, Michele Cevoli, Michael Battistini and Luca Ceccaroli are all absent from this squad.
Middlesbrough striker Marcus Forss is the most notable absentee for Finland coming into this break.
Oliver Antman is also a big miss, while full-back Leo Vaisanen has been overlooked by manager Markku Kanerva.
Teemu Pukki was only a substitute against Northern Ireland, but he came on and scored in that 4-0 success and could start up front with Joel Pohjanpalo in a more attacking starting XI for the visitors.
San Marino possible starting lineup:
Benedettini; Ma. Battistini, Franciosi, Di Maio, Rossi, Tosi; A Golinucci, Capicchioni, Mularoni, Lazzari; Nanni
Finland possible starting lineup:
Hradecky; Alho, Tenho, Ivanov, Peltola; Kamara, Schuller, Kairinen, Hakans; Pukki, Pohjanpalo
We say: San Marino 0-4 Finland
A fixture against the group minnows should boost morale and help Finland to go out on a high before entering the playoffs, and their last 12 qualifying wins have seen them keep a clean sheet on each occasion and San Marino are unlikely to threaten ending that record.
The hosts are cut adrift and will just be targeting a goal or a 0-0 draw to round off another luckless campaign for the minnows, but both are unlikely.
For data analysis of the most likely results, scorelines and more for this match please click here.
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