The qualifying draw for the 2016 European Championships took place at the weekend in the south of France and for our European representative, San Marino, it produced the only outcome it could possibly have done, namely a tough draw.
Drawn into Group E, San Marino are paired with England as the seeded nation, the third time this has happened to the Sammarinese, though the previous two were in World Cup qualifying. The other teams in the group are Switzerland, Slovenia, Estonia and Lithuania who will provide San Marino’s first opponents in September this year.
For the first time the fixture list was set in advance by UEFA rather than letting the respective FAs hash it out themselves and this has resulted in a more balanced set of fixtures, removing the possibility of the bigger teams setting things according to their own agendas. This seems much fairer all round.
Additionally, the matches will be played over six consecutive nights during the international windows in the cringingly named “Week of Football” concept, and Euro 2016 hosts France have a fixed set of friendlies against the teams in the five team Group I. There was no possibility of San Marino, or any of the other real minnows, ending up with friendlies against France though as they were all destined for six-team groups.
San Marino’s Euro 2016 fixtures are as follows:
8thSeptember 2014 San Marino v. Lithuania
9thOctober 2014 England v. San Marino
14thOctober 2014 San Marino v. Switzerland
15thNovember 2014 San Marino v. Estonia
27thMarch 2015 Slovenia v. San Marino
14thJune 2015 Estonia v. San Marino
5thSeptember 2015 San Marino v. England
8thSeptember 2015 Lithuania v. San Marino
9thOctober 2015 Switzerland v. San Marino
12thOctober 2015 San Marino v. Slovenia
San Marino are of course yet to register a single point in European Championships qualifying, having lost all 56 matches so far, scoring just 6 goals while conceding a whopping 253. Prospects of that changing in this campaign is very unlikely. The closest they came was a Euro 2008 qualifier at home to Ireland when it took a 94th minute Stephen Ireland strike to snatch a 2-1 win for some very relieved Irishmen.
San Marino’s record against each of their group opponents is of course hopeless:
v. England Played 4 Lost 4 Goals 1-26
v. Switzerland Played 2 Lost 2 Goals 0-11
v. Slovenia Played 2 Lost 2 Goals 0-8
v. Estonia Played 1 Lost 1 Goals 0-1
v. Lithuania Played 2 Lost 2 Goals 0-5
Two of those opponents have only scraped past San Marino 1-0 in matches in Serravalle. Lithuania did so in World Cup 2006 qualification, while Estonia won by the same narrow score in a 2002 friendly.
Currently San Marino have no friendlies arranged ahead of this qualifying group which starts in September, so should that remain the same they will of course remain a Worst in the World up until that point.