It should be the easiest of openers but there is always room for debate and discord when England play, even against likely Group I whipping boys San Marino. The last six meetings have gone the way of the Three Lions by an aggregate score of 37-1, though that one scored by Davide Gualtieri in 1993 remains a matter of ignominy for England.
Thursday's game ought to offer Gareth Southgate opportunities to blood some of the younger and more inexperienced players in the squad ahead of the summer's European Championships. Here's everything you need to know about the game:
- Date: Thursday, Mar. 25 | Time: 3:45 p.m. ET
- Location: Wembley Stadium -- London, England
- TV/Live stream: ESPN+
- Odds: England -20000; Draw +3300; San Marino +6600 (via William Hill Sportsbook)
England: While key figures like Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling and Jordan Henderson have their places set in stone for the summer's European Championships, there is competition across the squad with impressive depth available to Gareth Southgate, much of which could be deployed at Wembley on Thursday night.
Kalvin Phillips, James Ward-Prowse and Jude Bellingham might just be battling for one, at most two, places in the Euros squad and there will be similar competition among the likes of Ollie Watkins and Dominic Calvert-Lewin for a role as Kane's backup. The coming days are the last chance for these players to impress Southgate in training.
San Marino: Fixtures between Europe's traditional powers and minnows such as San Marino inevitably prompt questions as to the necessity and value of Kane and company racking up the goals against part-timers. UEFA's Nations League was designed to address that, consistently pitting smaller teams against each other to offer development opportunities. In Group D2 Franco Varrella's side at least showed signs of progress, drawing and keeping clean sheets against both Liechtenstein and Gibraltar, the sixth and seventh matches in their history that they have not lost.
In spite of the above this ought to be a regulation win for a good England side. Pick: England 6 San Marino 0