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How San Marino Humiliated England For 23 Years

It’s 1993. A Graham Taylor-led England side has endured one of the worst-ever World Cup Qualifying campaigns in their history.

England needed a 7-goal swing in their favour in order to make it to the 1994 World Cup, which would have meant almost certain failure were they not playing the minnows of San Marino.

San Marino had scored 1 and conceded 39 in 9 games, sat rock bottom and represented literally 0 threat to England’s point total. They were going to win this game. The odds on San Marino to win against back then would be around the same as they are here online.

It’s just an impossibility. But, the chances of England winning by enough goals to secure qualification? A lot less of a sure thing.

They need to also compensate for the Netherlands’ result over in Poland. The Dutch were expected to win, but Poland represented a proper challenge. 

Poland had only conceded 15 in 9 games and had held The Dutch earlier in the qualifiers. Though England would have no way of knowing the result until after their own game, the message and mission for England in this final game, was to score…

Please…Just score as many as possible, without conceding.

A Moment Of Madness

You couldn’t get a more simple game plan, but as certain as it was that England would win, you just knew that somehow England would find a way to balls’ it up. Absolutely nobody would have predicted, they’d bottle it in such a spectacular fashion…

San Marino kicked off and knowing that this might be the furthest up the pitch they get until they concede, went on the attack from the get go.

It was only 4 seconds later, they’d lost the ball, a wayward pass, easily picked up by Stuart Pearce, who, facing his own goal tries to roll it back to David Seaman in goal.

Only the ball never made it to Seaman. It meekly trickled off of Pearce’s foot, for an onrushing San Marinese striker who hadn’t given up on the poor pass from his teammate.

Stealing in from behind, Davide Gualtieri nipped in front of his man, that man being the defender affectionately known as ‘Psycho’, and poked home from 10 yards.

England were 1-0 down inside 8.3 seconds… The fastest goal in the competition’s history.

The unpopular Graham Taylor looks on dejected. He knows this is the final nail in the coffin. Winning, even World Cup qualification won’t save him now. England quite literally have it all to do.

Lee Dixon can’t help but laugh, hiding it well enough as to not be spotted by cameras.

90 minutes later, it was 7-1 to England. They knew, barring a Poland victory, they were out, falling 1 short.

The fact England had failed to qualify thanks to not just a San Marino consolation, but the opener, the fastest opener even… It was the ultimate misery compiler and they’d won by 6 goals.

Never in football history has a team been so devastated to win 7-1.

The man behind the goal? A Computer Technician in his day job. England had been outfoxed by a one-man IT department.

He became a hero among the Scottish, the Auld Enemy revelling in England’s shame while Gualtieri became the most famous San Marinese man in the world.

The record went on to stand until 2017, standing as a record of England’s most embarrassing failure for 23 long years, before finally, Christian Benteke put England’s ignominy to rest.

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