Can Andorra Beat England?

After winning 5-0 in their Euro 2008 qualifier in September, an England victory against Andorra in the return game scheduled for March 28 should be a foregone conclusion.

The game has been moved from Andorra to the Olympic stadium in Barcelona, home ground for Spanish team Espanyol, and owned by Barcelona City Council. Barcelona is a two and a half hour drive from the Andorran capital, Andorra la Vella.

‘It comes as no surprise that the game has been moved from Andorra to Barcelona’, comment an Andorra travel guide, ‘Andorra’s national stadium has a capacity of 1,800 while the Olympic stadium holds 55,000. Wisdom has decreed that Andorra’s national stadium is not fit for international football. Many will regret that Andorra’s team cannot be judged in the same way.’

But the guide considers that there is a possibility that Andorra will secure one of the shocks of recent football history by winning on March 28 – if the circumstances are right.

‘Andorra have nothing to lose except three points when they play England in Barcelona – and they lose three points in virtually every game anyway, but for England it wouldn’t just be a national disgrace but quite possibly the end of their campaign to reach the Euro 2008 finals in Switzerland and Austria. It all depends upon whether England play politics or football.

Dropping David Beckham from the England side was perhaps more of a political decision taken by a new England regime intent on showing a break from the past rather than for sound footballing reasons.’ Say the guide, lamenting the loss of England’s former captain who has been playing in Spain for Real Madrid in recent years, and is now set for a move in the summer to California.

‘England have a game against Israel a few days before playing Andorra, and will be viewing the Andorra game as the easier of the two. The England manager could be tempted not to play his best possible team in Barcelona.’

In addition to playing an understrength team, the Andorra travel guide consider that the England manager could have one eye on the game, and another on the Premiership managers back home nervously hoping their star players won’t be picking up injuries.

‘Andorra sometimes try to make up their lack of talent by being physical. There could be pressure on the England manager Steve McClaren from Premiership managers such as Sir Alex Ferguson not to risk star players such as Wayne Rooney in what should essentially be an easy game. The Premiership will be entering a critical stage with just a handful of games left, plus European games and the FA Cup final stages coming up. We can’t imagine Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea and Germany’s Bayern Munich being happy at seeing Steven Gerrard, John Terry, Frank Lampard, Owen Hargreaves and Wayne Rooney picking up injuries at such a critical time. The temptation will be to play a second fiddle England team. Even then England should win comfortably. But if the players who get chosen decide to do just enough to secure the three points it could allow Andorra the chance of a shock draw or even victory, however unlikely that may seem’.

Andorra The Tax Haven

Andorra has a population of 70,000 and is best known for her ski resorts, relegating football to a minority sport, and as a European tax haven.

The country’s resident population enjoys a tax regime similar to Monaco, with a zero rated income tax.

Property in Andorra is around a quarter of Monaco’s prices, despite the similar tax structure, with wealthy individuals moving to the Principality to minimise their tax bills.

In the eighties Andorra ski holidays were cheap and cheerful, but investment in the infrastructure and ski fields has seen the country become increasingly popular with skiers and snowboarders.

Over ten million tourists visited Andorra in 2006, but a lack of snow for the first eight weeks of this year’s ski season has seen a fall in visitors of some fifteen per cent.

With Barcelona a two and a half hour drive away, the Andorra guide hopes that some of the travelling England support might venture up for a few days skiing.

‘The end of March and beginning of April is an ideal time for a ski holiday in Andorra,’ they comment, ‘And if Andorra do produce a miracle in Barcelona and secure a draw or all three points they wouldn’t have to return to England for a few days.’

Andorra’s best known ski resorts are Soldeu, Pas de la Casa and Arinsal. Soldeu has some of the best new hotels in Andorra, and Arinsal the best night life.

And if the England players wives and girlfriends, often referred to as WAG’s in the English media, fancy a few days tax free shopping, the capital Andorra la Vella is full of department stores stocking luxury items at reduced prices compared to Barcelona and England.

‘Perhaps the best scenario for England would be to make David Beckham captain for the Andorra game’, conclude the guide, ‘Although he hasn’t played much for Real Madrid recently he is used to playing in Spain. Even a half match fit David Beckham committed to winning the game would be too much for Andorra, and it would be a good opportunity for England supporters to say farewell before he leaves for the US.’

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