This weekend most eyes this week are on the big teams in the World Cup qualifiers and international friendlies, but languagecaster takes a look at some of the smaller countries – the minnows of Europe and their prospects. You can listen to the report by clicking on the link below, while vocabulary support (in bold) appears at the foot of the report.
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Languagecaster have chosen three of Europe’s ‘biggest’ minnows, that’s to say three of the least successful sides from some of the smaller nations in Europe. With World Cup qualifiers well under way, most journalists and football fans are looking at the big teams, the favourites, Spain, Holland, and Germany.
First up is Malta, a small island in the Mediterranean Sea and ranked 153rd in the world by FIFA. This tiny footballing nation has a population of 450,000, that’s about the same size as Liverpool in the UK. But for a minnow, Malta has proved to be no pushover with respectable results: in 2005 they drew with Bulgaria, Northern Ireland and Croatia, and in 2011 they drew against Switzerland. There biggest win was against another less fancied side, Liechtenstein, 7-1 in 2008. How about their chances for the World Cup in Brazil? Well, they have lost both their opening games losing 1-0 to Armenia and 2-0 to Italy. Bottom of the group but not embarrassed so far. Most of the national side come from the two big teams, Valletta and Birkirkara, currently first and second in the Maltese Premier League.
The Faroe Islands! Not many people could even find them on the map. This tiny collection of islands with a population of 50,000, sits between Iceland to the west, Scotland to the south and Norway to the east. They joined FIFA in 1988 and since then have given many visiting big teams from Europe a hard time when they play at their home ground Tórsvøllur. Some notable results include beating Lithuania, Iceland and Estonia in competitive matches. They even pushed Italy, then World Champions, at home in 2008, losing by one goal 2-1. They lie in last place in their group for this World Cup qualifying after a 3-0 loss away to Germany. Next up is a home game against Sweden.
La Serenissima, the most serene, is the nickname for San Marino the lowest ranked side in FIFA, 207th! This minute state is surrounded by the European football powerhouse of Italy, and with a population of around 30,000 is the smallest country represented in the Council of Europe. San Marino perhaps has the worst international record of any team, and they have never one a competitive international, but they have drawn against Turkey! San Marino’s job as a footballing nation seems to be that of embarrassing bigger teams. If a team can’t beat San Marino by a hatfull of goals then critics and pundits will start calling for a manager to be sacked or a player to be dropped. In 1993 for example, England beat San Marino 7-1, but an incredible goal within 9 seconds by San Marino’s Davide Gualtieri meant that the English side were still battered in the press. This week San Marino play England again at Wembley, and after they were beaten 6-0 by Montenegro in their first qualifier, the pressure will be on England to score more!
minnow: a small team; an unfancied team; a weak team
no pushover: not an easy team to beat; not as easy to beat as you would think
less fancied: not thought of as being strong; most people think a ‘less fancied’ team is weak
opening games (openers): first games in a competition / qualifying group
notable: famous; news worthy; important
competitive: the opposite of a friendly game; this a match with where the result is important
pushed: made (another team) work hard; made it difficult
powerhouse: strong team; famous team; giant
hatfull: a lot; many
battered: attacked; criticised