There are no easy games at international level… (unless you're playing this lot!)
21:58 GMT, 11 October 2012
It may look routine enough on paper, but it hasn’t always been plain sailing for England against some of the world’s lesser lights.
Two of their most emphatic scorelines were accompanied by controversy, with Malcolm Macdonald livid at the way Don Revie treated him against Cyprus and Luther Blissett suffering an unwarranted slur after his hat-trick against Luxembourg. Even opponents San Marino caused embarrassment before succumbing.
And who could forget the way David Healy fired in a dramatic late winner in Belfast seven years ago Here, Sportsmail talks to key figures from some of England’s past encounters with international minnows.
Mac the knife: Malcolm Macdonald thunders in one of his five
England 5 Cyprus 0
Wembley, April 16, 1975: Macdonald 5
Malcolm Macdonald: ‘Don Revie made it clear, in the previous game against West Germany, that I was in his squad under sufferance. It was down to pressure from the media, nothing to do with being the in-form finisher in the League and if I didn’t score against the newly-crowned world champions, I’d be out. I did manage a goal, but the message was the same against Cyprus — score, or you’ll never play for me again. The only reason I can think of is that I played for Newcastle and we used to batter his Leeds team and I’d often be on the scoresheet. That shouldn’t have mattered for England, but he was a complex character and it seemed to rankle. It was unprofessional on his part, but scoring five goals was the perfect answer. I was shaking hands with the Cypriots at the end when the scoreboard went blank. Then it lit up with ‘Supermac 5, Cyprus 0’. That was a special moment. I noticed Revie shuffling off down the touchline, shoulders hunched, hands in his sheepskin coat pocket, and I just bellowed: ‘Read that and weep, you b******.’ I knew he wouldn’t hear, but that was just how I felt. In the dressing room, he went round each player, from one to 11, shaking hands and saying thanks. After number eight, Mick Channon, he blanked me and went to 10 and 11, then walked out. Incredible, but what mattered was we’d been brutal with lesser opposition, which England must be tonight.’
Hat-trick: Luther Blissett celebrates his third
England 9 Luxembourg 0
Wembley, December 15, 1982: Blissett 3, Coppell, Woodcock, Chamberlain, Hoddle, Neal, Jeanott Moes (og)
Luther Blissett: ‘I had a hand in the first goal and that was as important as my hat-trick. I drilled the ball across the six-yard box and it went in off a defender. The opening goal is crucial. A couple of headers from Steve Coppell and Tony Woodcock, then it was my turn. I did not get a clean contact on the first but there was nothing wrong with the headers that followed and it was great to have a hat-trick. There was never any chance of us letting up. I always remember my old Watford boss Graham Taylor saying: “If you get the chance to beat someone 10, then beat them 10”. The Sun carried a headline “Luther Missit” the next morning (the paper focused on his missed chances), but I’ve never been one for keeping negative thoughts. There was no chance of it spoiling a great memory.’
San Marino 1 England 7
Stadio Renato Dall’Ara, Bologna, November 17, 1993: Gualtieri; I Wright 4, Ince 2, Ferdinand
David Gualtieri: ‘I instinctively decided to chase Stuart Pearce’s backpass and when he mishit it, I was in on goal. There was no time to think. Just hit it hard and low and hope it goes in. It did and we were in front after eight seconds. It was the fastest goal in World Cup history and it changed my life. England got on top eventually, but while it was 1-0, the air turned blue with some of the language they were using. Fair play to Pearce, though. When I went up to him at the end, he swapped shirts and shook hands. I’ll get round to finding a frame for it one of these days. Eighteen months later, Scotland played us here and I remember seeing their fans wearing T-shirts that said “GUALTIERI EIGHT SECONDS”. It was really funny.’
Infamous: Davide Gualtieri pips Stuart Pearce to his under-hit backpass before firing past David Seaman
On target: Martin Keown scores for England
Malta 1 England 2
Valletta, June 3, 2000: R Wright (og); Keown, Heskey
Martin Keown: ‘I should have had a hat-trick. It was a warm-up for Euro 2000 and we were all playing for places. I scored one, had another disallowed and should have had more. I was disappointed that the game was too easy. I didn’t have a chance to show what I could do and Sol Campbell and Tony Adams ended up starting at the Euros. When we played smaller teams, there was that uneasy feeling of having to get a good start, otherwise the match would become awkward.’
But beware, don't get too cocky!
Northern Ireland 1 England 0
Windsor Park, Belfast, September 7, 2005: Healy
David Healy: ‘I sensed something was going to happen before kick-off. The corridor from the changing rooms at Windsor Park is narrow and when the England boys emerged, there was barbed wire by the pitch, police everywhere. Our manager Lawrie Sanchez told us to make it like a Championship fixture. James Quinn smashed into Ashley Cole after six seconds and that set the tone. The England players became rattled, none more so than Wayne Rooney. He was only a young boy but he lost it. He was shouting at Sven Goran Eriksson and was lucky not to be sent off after elbowing Keith Gillespie. David Beckham did his best to calm him down but the body language among England’s lads was a giveaway. When I shot past Paul Robinson 15 minutes from time, it was a great feeling. There are murals of that goal on walls in Belfast and one has Lawrie’s words on it. “These boys have achieved immortality in Northern Ireland sport.” That’s what it meant.’
Flying start: David Healy fires in the winner as Ashley Cole looks aghast
The no-hoper files: England’s record against the international whipping boys…
WHEN THEY’VE CRUISED
September 1, 1996: Moldova 0 England 3, World Cup qualifier
September 10, 1997: England 4 Moldova 0, World Cup qualifier
September 4, 1999: England 6 Luxembourg 0, Euro qualifier
Five goals in the first half.
June 6, 2009: Kazakhstan 0 England 4, World Cup qualifier
Took the lead after 20 minutes and eased to victory.
September 7, 2012: Moldova 0 England 5, World Cup qualifier
WHEN THEY’VE BEEN BRUISED
October 14, 1998: Luxembourg 0 England 3, Euros qualifier
Home side missed early penalty and late goals added gloss.
October 13, 2004: Azerbaijan 0 England 1, World Cup qualifier
March 30, 2005: England 2 Azerbaijan 0, World Cup qualifier
Two tight, scrappy games.
October 11, 2008: England 5 Kazakhstan 1, World Cup qualifier
Made sure with three goals in the last 13 minutes.
WHEN THEY’VE BEEN BOOED
March 28, 2007: Andorra 0 England 3, Euros qualifier
Awful first 45 minutes.
September 6, 2008: Andorra 0 England 2, World Cup qualifier
A dreadful, goalless first half.
June 18, 2010: England 0 Algeria 0, World Cup group stage
Wayne Rooney ranted at England fans who booed the team.