Gary Lineker calls for FIFA rule change after England’s 5-0 win

Former England striker Gary Lineker has called on FIFA to make a change to the qualification system for the World Cup.

His comments, posted on Twitter, came during England’s 5-0 victory over San Marino last night.

Gareth Southgate’s men had 31 shots in total over the 90 minutes, with 15 of those on target.

San Marino only had one effort on goal throughout the match.

Lineker suggested that the lowest ranked nations should have to play each other first before going on to face the higher-ranked sides.

The current qualification structure features all 55 UEFA-affiliated teams.

San Marino have won one game throughout their history – a 1-0 friendly victory over Liechtenstein 17 years ago.

Prior to the England game, they were on a two-match unbeaten run in UEFA competitions, having drawn 0-0 against Liechtenstein and Gibraltar.

They have a population of just over 33,000 – the second smallest of any UEFA member.

That means that their side is mostly made up of part-time players.

One man who received plenty of praise last night was goalkeeper Elia Benedettini, who plays for Italian Serie C side Cesena. The 25-year-old put in an impressive display against England, making a total of 10 saves.

Does Lineker’s idea have merit?

Lineker’s idea would mean that the lowest-ranked teams would have to play each in order to earn the opportunity to play against the higher-ranked sides, in a preliminary round scenario.

The preliminary round system is one used in both Africa and Asia.

Would a change to the current system in Europe be universally popular? For the likes of San Marino and their players, the qualifiers represent their best opportunity to face off against Europe’s elite footballers.

The qualification system in Europe goes as far back as 1958, when 27 teams in nine groups took part. Each side played four matches each.

It has steadily expanded in size ever since to its current number of 55 sides.

Is it time for a change in the system, or should things remain as they are?

Fans and pundits held differing views on the topic:

England are next in World Cup qualifying action when they take on Albania on Sunday. San Marino, meanwhile, host Hungary.

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