What a waste of time as minnows cave in

PUBLISHED : Friday, 06 September, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 06 September, 1996, 12:00am

POINTLESS! And I'm not just talking about San Marino's World Cup qualifying campaign to date.

No, it's the very fact that San Marino and other footballing minnows are allowed to play alongside Europe's big boys in qualifying competitions which begs the question: Why? What possible function do San Marino fulfil in the World Cup other than to improve the goals-per-game ratio of opposition strikers.

Why are such cannon fodder allowed into the competition? In the past you could at least point to the 'goals for' column as reason enough. Beat the part-timers 6-0, like Wales did last weekend, and at least you were gaining an advantage when fellow travellers in the same group failed to match such a stuffing.

Now that FIFA, the world's governing body, have tinkered with the rules so that results against the worst teams count for nothing but points, even that justification is denied.

Wales have now walloped this lot to the tune of 11 goals but unless the Netherlands, Belgium or Turkey drop a point against them, they might just as well have had two 1-0 wins for the relevance these matches will have in deciding who plays in France in two years' time.

Better still, Ryan Giggs might have the nous not to get booked in both games and be available for the far more meaningful fixture against the Netherlands in Cardiff on October 5.

'We did a professional job on them and equalled our record in a World Cup match. I think we've every reason to feel satisfied,' said Neville Southall, the Welsh goalkeeper-cum-coach.

As for what satisfaction San Marino derived, that is debatable. By the end they had become a thoroughly unedifying bunch, querying decisions and flying into tackles with the intention of making a point rather than winning the ball and it was no more than they deserved when Pier Angelo Manzaroli was sent off in injury time for two bookable offences.

The sooner they are put into a pre-qualifying competition the better.