Improving the World’s Worst National Team | Part 8: EURO 2028

The meteoric rise of Sammarinese football was confirmed as San Marino won their European Championship Qualifying group ahead of Austria and Bosnia to qualify for EURO 2028 – their first-ever international tournament – to climb into the world’s top 100 for the first time.

This success was 99% down to the outrageous goalscoring pedigree of Davide San Marino who, after the qualifying group and a few friendlies, came into the Euros on 105 goals in 72 caps.

The nation’s increased stature convinced Olympiakos centre-back Andrea Berti and winger/striker Michele Cecchetti to reverse their decisions to represent Italy and return to San Marino.

EURO 2028

San Marino’s first-ever tournament saw them handed a tough group alongside hosts Italy, Sweden and Germany, who they famously beat in the Nations League. Despite a few injury scares, Andy Selva eventually was able to pick a full squad, which was:

Goalkeepers: Marco Zanotti (Venezia), Thomas Vanucci (Genoa) and Marco Zanotti (Crotone)

Defenders: Marco Della Balda (Hellas Verona), Nicola Pasolini (SPAL), Denis Mazza (Frosinone), Andrea Berti (Olympiakos), Federico Righi (Bari), Davide Benedettini (Reggina) and Michele Liverani (Torino)

Midfielders: Alex Gennari and Giacomo Giovagnoli (San Marino Academia), Mattia Casadei (Bari) and Simone Graziosi (Perugia)

Wingers: Manuel Berardi (San Marino Academia), Paulo Selva (SPAL), Maurizio Morri (AC Milan), Mattia Casadei (Empoli) and Simone Tomassoni (Chievo Verona)

Strikers: Davide San Marino (Inter), Gian Luca Valli (San Marino Academia), Alessandro Bollini (Catania) and Fabio Zafferani (Udinese)

The tournament kicked off with a massive game as San Marino faced off against the mighty Italy. The Italians scored with their first shot then won a very dubious penalty that sealed a 2-0 win, but the Sammarinese could certainly be pleased with their efforts.

Next up was Sweden, in which they nicked a 1-1 draw courtesy of DSM’s 63rd-minute equaliser. That game also saw DSM become San Marino’s all-time record appearances holder with his 74th cap surpassing manager Selva’s record of 73. And that teed up a massive group decider with Germany, in which an unlikely win could send San Marino through if Italy beat Sweden.

Against all the odds, San Marino got a flyer as Manuel Berardi headed home from a free-kick after nine minutes and Mattia Casadei (DM) struck a sweet low shot into the bottom corner two minutes later. They were in dreamland as DSM ran through to smash home a third on 27 minutes and nearly doubled his tally five minutes later. But they eventually did make it four as Gian Luca Valli tapped home on the verge of half-time. Possibly the most ridiculous half of football ever saw the half-time score San Marino 4-0 Germany. And it was deserved, as San Marino had 13 shots to 7 and 59% of possession!

Unbelievably, the onslaught continued after the break, as Berardi curled home a beauty from 20 yards and DSM hit a 20-yarder straight from the kick-off to make it 6-0. Then Berardi wrapped up his hat-trick as he finished off a lovely team move to make it 7-0 after 63 minutes. And that’s how it stayed, an absolutely obscene result that is easily the most ridiculous I’ve ever seen on Football Manager. San Marino 7-0 Germany! And that was a new EUROs record win!

Thankfully, Italy did beat Sweden 2-0, which meant San Marino were heading through to the knockout stages of EURO 2028!

EURO Knockout Stages

The second round of the EUROs tied San Marino with Bulgaria, against whom they hadn’t lost in two previous meetings. They went into the knockout round with Casadei (DM) suspended but other than that, unchanged from the Germany romp.

A pretty even game saw San Marino edge in front as that man Berardi again stepped up after 40 minutes, only for Bulgaria to respond two minutes later. A dire second half was followed by an even worse extra-time and the two sides went to penalties. Valli missed the first spot kick only for Marco Zanotti to save Bulgaria’s first. He then saved Bulgaria’s fourth, which gave DSM to become even more of a national hero – which, of course, he did as he slammed home the winning penalty!

That took San Marino into the quarter-finals, where they drew Ukraine, who’d reached the same stage in the last EUROs and World Cup. It wasn’t looking good when Victor Tsygankov scored the first shot of the match inside two minutes. But the main man DAM stepped up to equalise after 24 minutes. However, Alex Gennari foolishly picked up two bookings and was sent off after 36 minutes.

Selva went super-defensive and it worked as San Marino defended like heroes for 84 minutes to earn themselves another chance of winning the lottery on penalties. Both teams scored their first penalties only for Victor Kovalenko to fire Ukraine’s second wide. Five more penalties were converted, giving DSM another chance to be the hero and he once again delivered to seal an unlikely amd totally undeserved win. San Marino were through to the semi-finals!!

Elsewhere in the quarters, England lost 2-0 to Romania, Holland beat France on penalties and Italy eased past Spain 2-0. And San Marino drew Holland in the semis. San Marino played superbly in the first half and should have led as DSM hit the post with a header from 6 yards out, then Holland immediately took the lead through a scrappy free-kick goal. San Marino weren’t downhearted and Berardi stepped up again to equalise on 65 minutes. But a cruel twist saw Mohamed Ihattaren score in the 93rd-minute to break Sammarinese hearts.

Italy went on to win the tournament, thrashing Holland 4-2 in the Final, having led 4-1 inside 37 minutes. And amazingly, Berardi won the European Championship Golden Boot for his five goals in six matches! While he made the team of the tournament and DSM was named on the bench.

Reaching the semi-finals of EURO 2028 is a momentous achievement for San Marino. And, combined with reaching Nations League Group A, it does go to prove that you can improve the world’s worst national team with better youth ratings and a standout striker to act as a talisman. In the summer of 2028, San Marino had reached 82nd in the world rankings, a rise of 127 places since Selva took charge in 2020.

The main man of this effort was of course Davide San Marino, who has scored 109 goals in 78 caps during Selva’s reign. But other key men include Berardi, who amassed 18 goals in 58 caps, Paulo Selva, who has nine goals in 74 caps, left-back Denis Mazza, who won 69 caps, and centre-back Nicola Pasolini, who scored four times in 66 caps.

But that’s where we’ll leave this experiment in terms of playing time. Selva finished as San Marino manager having played 81 matches, of which he won 40, drew 17 and lost 24 and scored 198 goals and conceded 23.

However, I am going to sim the save ahead to see how San Marino fare in the future.

Simming ahead with San Marino

Life without Selva began with getting hammered in the Nations League by Belgium, Spain and Scotland. But they did manage to make San Marino’s first-ever World Cup, qualifying from a group containing Germany (again!), Ireland, Russia and Latvia. However, they slipped to 2-0 and 4-0 defeats to South Africa and Argentina to crash out of the World Cup 2030 groups.

In the meantime, star man Davide San Marino earned a £102 million move to Man City from Inter at the start of the 2030/31 campaign. He scored 16 in 47 in his first season in England and, at the age of 25, now has 119 goals in 105 caps – which means he’d only scored 10 in 27 in the three years since Selva left.

A good start to the EURO 2032 Qualifiers saw San Marino surge to 62nd in the FIFA world rankings. However, they missed out on the tournament as they lost to Wales in the playoff semi-final. But they did manage to consolidate their place in the Nations League Group B, in which they yet again faced off against Germany, Russia and Bosnia!

Away from the national team, the new academy team I created, San Marino Academia, reached Serie A for the first time in 2032. However, they came 20th and were relegated on 25 points. While DSM had a stinker of a third season at City and found himself transfer-listed in the summer of 2033!

We got through to 2035 (despite leaving my laptop on all night, it failed to sim as far as I expected!) and DSM had now moved on to Barcelona for £90 million. He now has 136 goals in 133 caps for San Marino. While San Marino have consolidated their position in the top 70, which represents a strong rise in stature having been 209th in the world in 2020.

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