Home » From Stocking Shelves to the National Team: The Rise of San Marino Football

From Stocking Shelves to the National Team: The Rise of San Marino Football

by Nathan Zachary
san marino football

Located just north of Rome, Italy, the world’s fourth smallest country isn’t much to look at, with a population of less than 30,000. But when it comes to football also known as soccer in some parts of the world San Marino Football punches far above its weight. The San Marino national team plays in FIFA’s European group and has qualified for the European Championships twice in its history, both times reaching the final qualifying stage before missing the cut to play in the finals by one spot in 2002 and one point in 2012.

San Marino Football: A Brief History

San Marino football was founded in 1929, and has been steadily improving since it first started. San Marino is one of the smallest countries in Europe and is ranked 178th out of 209 FIFA members. To date, they have played against 16 other teams and have won four games, drawn two, and lost ten. San Marino’s national team made its debut in 1990 after joining FIFA a year earlier and their first game was against Malta on April 5th 1990, which ended in a 0-0 draw. Their second game was against Switzerland on September 15th 1990 and ended with a 1-2 defeat. They did not play again until 1994 when they played Luxembourg at home in Serravalle on March 29th 1994; they lost 0-1. 

San Marino then went on hiatus for three years before playing Wales away from home in 1997 and losing 4-0. San Marino’s next game was against Liechtenstein back in Serravalle on October 3rd 2001 where they drew 0-0. San Marino then defeated Greece for the first time ever (their ninth meeting) by drawing 2-2, both goals being scored by Andrea Mazzarani who later became captain of the national side. It wasn’t until 2007 that San Marino managed another win, this time over Macedonia at home.

Early Struggles

San Marino football struggled in its early years. There were no professional players, and only a handful of amateur ones. When they faced Italy, they did so with an untrained team made up of students who played for fun. To make matters worse, San Marino has never been in the top division of Italian football since its inception in 1929. It was relegated from Serie A in 1961 after just one season. However, there is a lot of hope for San Marino football thanks to Francesco Muzzi and Luca Toni. Muzzi is the current coach of San Marino’s national team. His goal is to bring the team back into the top division by 2020, when it will host UEFA Euro 2020 games at its home stadium in Serravallian something that would be a huge achievement for such an underdog nation. 

Despite many defeats against larger nations, San Marino football is going strong. In 2016, San Marino became a member of FIFA and reached their highest-ever FIFA ranking at 129th out of 207 teams. As a result, they have qualified for the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying matches, where they defeated Malta 1-0 on September 5th 2017. With more than ten players based abroad and five more coming through San Iuliano Sports Academy (San Marino’s first soccer academy), San Marino football is showing steady improvement as an international force to be reckoned with.

San Marino Football: Recent Success

San Marino football has a rich history. It was founded in 1923 and was originally called Associazione Sportiva Sanmarinese, or AS Sanmarinese for short. They started playing regular international matches after World War II. In 1990, they renamed themselves Federazione Sammarinese Gioco Calcio, or FSGC for short. The team made its first appearance in a European qualifying tournament in 2014, but lost every game that it played that year. 

San Marino football is hoping for better results this year as they compete for the first time since then against Liechtenstein on September 8th and against Moldova on October 6th. The players include captain Cristian Brolli, who plays for San Marino’s most popular club, San Marino Calcio; Pierluigi Gabelli and Nicola Romano, who play for Virtus; Andrea Marcucci; Stefano Guzzetti; Alex Gasperoni; Alessandro Petricciuolo; Luca Pulignozzi.

san marino football

The Future of San Marino Football

San Marino football have a long way to go before they can be considered as one of Europe’s powerhouses. But in the last 20 years, they’ve made steady progress towards that goal. From stocking shelves to the national team, San Marino football is on an upward trajectory. Here are some reasons why it may not be too long before Sanrio becomes a powerhouse force in European football. 

1) Local Football Expertise San Marino football has been around for a very long time and this gives them many advantages over other countries. With their legacy and expertise comes experience, which translates into success in certain aspects of the game like tactical play and international fixtures.

2) Managerial Expertise San Marino manager Giampaolo Mazza has been instrumental to the success that Sanrio have achieved so far. He understands how to use players’ skillsets and often calls up younger players with potential to play internationally with seasoned veterans.

Final Thoughts

The San Marino national football team, nicknamed La Serenissima or The Serene Republic, is an amateur association football team. They are governed by the San Marino Football Federation and compete as a member of Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), which encompasses both FIFA and UEFA. San Marino has been ranked on top in Europe for having one of the strongest set defenses in international football. In 2012, they were given their first Fifa World Ranking at 201st out of 211 countries. 

With only six players allowed on the field at any given time, their game relies heavily on defending; their best offensive weapon is often considered to be long-range shooting from free kicks and corner kicks. In 2014, San Marino qualified for its first major international competition. Euro 2016 with many attributing their success to self-described defensive coach Pierangelo Manzaroli’s tenure with the team since 2006.

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