Mark Lawrenson: ''Dan Marino could have done better against England''

The former Liverpool defender suggested that the former NFL star could have done a better job by himself than the entire San Marino side did against England on Friday. While his comment was in jest does it raise the question over the automatic qualification rights of Europe's minnows?

As I sat down yesterday to eat my lent-enforced healthy brunch I flicked through the telly stations to land on Football Focus; ready in anticipation for the Edgar Davids interview. His time at Barnet has captivated me as something of a closet Bees follower and listening to his passion for the project at The Hive really got me in a good mood for the day.

However earlier in the show something Mark Lawrenson said really got me rib-tickled. When Dan Walker and Martin Keown were discussing the 8-0 thrashing imposed on world footballs perennial licking boys San Marino the ex-Liverpool player was quick to remark that ‘Dan Marino could have done better against England’.

Now while the vision of the former Miami Dolphin and Ace Ventura Pet Detective star single-handedly trying to stop the Three Lions from a thrashing of his own did make me chuckle the premise of his statement remained true.

What on earth does anybody gain from teams like England, Germany or Spain playing the likes of San Marino?

We asked the question after the Wembley pasting but now surely is the time for people to consider moving on from putting the minnows straight in at the deep end.

For me it was the result in Vienna; where Austria faced the Faeroe Islands that caused the biggest concern. The Scandinavian country has had its moments in the past; in fact their first ever competitive international was a 1-0 win against Austria that shocked the footballing world but overall they are one of the whipping boys.

Austria 6-0 Faroe Islands was painted on the scoreboard after 90 minutes as the amateurs were taken to the sword by Marcel Koller’s side on Friday.

What do these sides gain from such fixtures?

Surely a preliminary round which could see the likes of San Marino, Faroe Islands, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg and Andorra face off with one team qualifying to the main draw could help matters. You could even turn it into a tournament with a trophy set in a neutral location; players could score goals, win silverware and actually achieve something rather than get dealt a drubbing by professionals.

Some have raised good rebuttals to this. Every now and again a team slips through. Estonia for instance made the play-offs for Euro 2012 against all odds. Plus teams such as Turkey and Norway have been the whipping boys at one stage. Plus what about teams like Montenegro or Kazakhstan; who have come into Europe late and exceeded their expectations.

It is a tough one but surely San Marino would have preferred to be playing a competitive game with their rivals from Andorra then being pasted once again by players of such superior quality.

Do you think it is time to reshape the qualification system?

image: © Jacob Childrey

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