Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Minnows Deserve Place with Big Fish, Says Striker Who Stunned Us

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Minnows Deserve Place with Big Fish, Says Striker Who Stunned Us

Article excerpt

Byline: Tom Collomosse Football Correspondent

THE gap in talent between international football's strongest and weakest sides has led to questions about whether the minnows should still be allowed to compete. Yet the man responsible for one of England's most humiliating moments insists teams like San Marino must never be cut adrift.

Davide Gualtieri gave San Marino the lead after only 8.3 seconds of Graham Taylor's final match as national coach, in November 1993. It remains the fastest goal in World Cup history and even though England won the game 7-1, they did not qualify for the 1994 World Cup and Gualtieri's goal became one of the symbols of failure of Taylor's side.

Gualtieri is now 41 and runs an electronics shop in San Marino. He planned to watch the game at his home with friends tonight but even though it would be a major shock if England failed to win convincingly, Gualtieri believes San Marino -- ranked 207th and joint last in the FIFA standings -- should always be allowed to try to qualify for major tournaments.

"These experiences are so important for a small nation like ours," he told Standard Sport. "People say these nations shouldn't enter and that they should be removed from the big tournaments but how else can we grow? They are also big occasions for the communities.

"It's true, the level could be stronger in San Marino but it's difficult. We're a country of only 32,000 inhabitants. And even if we have one or two players of a decent level, it's never going to be enough against big teams like England, France, Germany and Holland.

"The technical level in the current San Marino side is actually higher than when I played but we had more experience -- that's how we managed to compete in some games, like when we drew 0-0 with Turkey in March 1993. This group are fitter, too, but they try to play a more open game than we did, which can always be a risk in international football."

Gualtieri revealed he had been in touch with several members of the San Marino squad to pass on advice about playing against a prominent country. …

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