It took 9.63 seconds for Usain Bolt to make history this summer, a second longer than it took Davide Gualtieri to do the same 19 years ago. The San Marino forward's qualifying goal against England remains the fastest in the history of the FIFA World Cup. "I still think I did something very important that day," Gualtieri told UEFA.com ahead of his country's trip to Wembley on Friday.
It was 17 November 1993 when Gualtieri gave San Marino a shock lead after 8.3 seconds of their qualifier against Graham Taylor's side. Though the match ended in a 7-1 win for England, Gualtieri's goal lives on as a defining moment in the history of San Marinese football.
"I still watch that goal sometimes and people still ask me if it was really me," said Gualtieri, now 41. "Scoring after 8.3 seconds was a world record, doing it against one of the best, most famous teams in the word was just amazing.
"For several days people talked about our national team. I still remember one headline – 'End of the World'. The picture on the newspaper was taken from TV because no photographers were ready for my goal. It was too fast. We played that game at Bologna's Stadio Dall'Ara and there were many fans following England as they still had the chance to qualify for the World Cup. Then Norway and the Netherlands qualified instead.
"A lot of time has passed since then but scoring after eight seconds against a team like England is not something you do every day.
That's why many football fans from around the world still come to visit me in my electronics shop."
"I hadn't even sat on the bench and we were 1-0 up," San Marino's then coach Giorgio Leoni added. "Davide was quick and clever to go for the ball after the misunderstanding between [David] Seaman and [Stuart] Pearce. He scored a great goal."
If Gualtieri's iconic feat came in the home game, Leoni has equally vivid memories of the trip to London. "Playing at Wembley against the masters of football was a great privilege for us all," he said. "It was not easy facing players like [Paul] Gascoigne and [David] Platt, but we gave our best. I remember our goalkeeper [Pierluigi] Benedettini saving a penalty from Platt that day. There were 53,000 fans. We tried to honour the game by playing with determination and courage."
San Marino's task this time is no less daunting, with England second in qualifying Group H after taking four points from their opening two fixtures. "It's a fascinating match – there are coaches and players who never get the chance to play at such a stadium during their careers," said current San Marino coach Giampaolo Mazza. "Facing England is difficult for any side in the world, let alone a national team from a country of 30,000 people. Technically it's a mismatch but we will still try to give everything."
Mazza intends to draw inspiration from Gualtieri's exploits. "Let's hope it will be a good omen for us, so we manage to score another goal in the two games against England. That would be great for us," he added.
Mirko Palazzi, the Rimini Calcio defender and only professional in the squad, is no less excited. "Playing at the home of football will be great," he said. "Adrenaline levels are already rising. For all of us it is a dream. The difference between the teams is huge, so we just have to give our best and always remember our limits." England, meanwhile, know they must be watchful from kick-off.
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