Did Andorra secure a moral win?

Andorra coach David Rodrigo claims his side’s 0-2 defeat against England was a moral victory for the tiny country. While it was undoubtedly a better result for Andorra than England would have hoped for, it was a somewhat predictable outcome. In fact, I predicted it here. But I am not convinced that this adds up to a moral victory.

Rodrigo said: “We understand we will not beat England, but even though we lost 2-0 I am very proud of the performance. That is twice now we have managed to stop them scoring in the first 45 minutes of game. It will be nice if we could do it for 90 minutes. Overall, we did a good technical job on England’s players. Frankly, we did ourselves proud and this was a moral victory for us.”

Yes, England were the hot favourites to win this David versus Goliath clash, but the FA Cup regularly throws up matches with similar gulfs in quality. The teams which go down in history as the true moral victors are those who have a go against their superior opponents and occasionally pull off the shock result, not the ones who park the proverbial team bus in front of their goal.

So while victory of any sort may have been unlikely, Andorra cannot claim a 0-2 defeat as a moral win. Their ultra-defensive approach could, and probably will, be forgiven at Wembley, but at home (or as close to home as they will let an Andorra-England match take place) even the smaller nations should be attempting to win matches. Perhaps a judo-style passivity warning is in order.

England and Andorra had met in the Euro 2008 qualification games and shown just how well they could stifle England with 10 men behind the ball and some robust defending. Surely, even the smallest footballing nations should be looking to progress? There is an argument for saying, ‘maybe next time they will keep it to 0-1, and the time after get a draw,’ but where do they go from there?

When Lawrie Sanchez led his Northern Ireland side to a shock victory against England in 2005 it was not through sitting back and putting 11 men on the goal line, but by instilling belief in his players that they could win the match, that football matches are not played on paper, that it is only 11 against 11 out there, and probably a whole host of other clichés too.

Andorra’s game plan might have been to stop England playing and frustrate them, but I fear it could have the same effect on them in the long-term. Uefa bigwigs occasionally mutter about a preliminary qualification tournament to remove some of the dead wood from the qualification groups, and tactics such as Andorra’s are unlikely to make those ideas go away. Yes, they can park their bus in front of the goal if they want to, but they shouldn’t be surprised if they pick up a parking fine at some point.

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