Hodgson defends San Marino

  • Last Updated: October 13 2012, 14:58 BST

Roy Hodgson has refused to join the critics who claim San Marino have no place in international football.

Roy Hodgson: Defended tactics of San Marino

Since they became a member of FIFA in 1990, Friday night's Wembley visitors have won just once, against Liechtenstein in 2004.

The predictably one-sided statistics showed England had 25 shots to San Marino's single off-target effort, enjoyed an 86% share of possession and won the corner count 17-0.

Analysis is utterly meaningless given the pattern of play did not change from the first minute to the last and, as Hodgson observed, the most significant event of the evening was Ukraine's surprise failure to overcome Moldova in Chisinau which means England have a three point advantage in Group H.

Little wonder TV pundit Gareth Southgate felt moved to question: "What is the point of San Marino?"

Arsene Wenger's sentiments may be even more pointed if, as expected, it is confirmed Theo Walcott cracked a rib after being clattered by San Marino goalkeeper Aldo Simoncini with a challenge that would have had them wincing on Hackney Marshes.

And it is not as if a republic that covers just 24 square miles and boasts a population of 32,000, roughly the same size as Bishops Stortford, could ever realistically show any significant improvement.

However, Hodgson is not decrying their existence as a footballing nation.

"It's up to UEFA and FIFA to decide which countries are allowed into their competitions," he said.

"San Marino have been in the Euros and the World Cup for some years.

"They play the way they play and do the best they can with the resources they have.

"We knew it was going to be attack versus defence.

"But I watched their matches against Montenegro and Moldova and it was a lot less attack against defence than our game.

"We can't accuse them of playing a dirty game of football.

"There weren't too many vicious fouls. There was one, which is the one which bothers us.

"But I wouldn't suggest they shouldn't be allowed in the competition."

It is a credit to the FA's ingenious marketing team that a crowd in excess of 84,000 turned out to watch the one-sided encounter.

Equally, Hodgson was fairly astute leaving out Ashley Cole, whilst also getting Michael Carrick and Wayne Rooney away from harm's way once the result had been confirmed.

With the knee injury that kept Frank Lampard out on Friday night due to be assessed when the England squad meet up again on Sunday, Carrick may well be required against Poland in Warsaw on Tuesday.

Rooney certainly will for a game Hodgson knows will be far more taxing than Friday night's affair.

"Alongside ourselves and Ukraine, Poland bear the burden of being favourites and it will be a tough game," said Hodgson.

History favours the Three Lions, who have lost just once in 17 meetings with Poland.

Another win would allow them to take a stranglehold on the only automatic qualifying spot, especially after Ukraine's unexpected stumble in Chisinau, where England scored five last month.

"I go away satisfied with the week," he said.

"We've opened St George's Park, entertained the crowd and scored five goals. And also Ukraine's result means we clawed back the two points we lost against them at Wembley last month."