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Sonejee awaits English birthday gift

Veteran Óscar Sonejee is expecting to enter another chapter in his growing compendium of memorable matches when Andorra take on England in Barcelona.

Veteran Óscar Sonejee is expecting to add another chapter to his growing compendium of memorable matches when Andorra take on England in Barcelona, seeking their first points in Group E.

Belated present
A 5-0 defeat at Old Trafford in their opening UEFA EURO 2008™ qualifier has done little to dampen Andorra's excitement. Defender Sonejee celebrated his 31st birthday on Monday, and the man who works in insurance by day sees the home tie against Steve McClaren's side as something of a belated present. "This game is a gift for all of us," he told uefa.com. "It'll be different from the first meeting with a different meaning, but I regard it as a present because it's against England. The atmosphere will be great and every time I think about it, all I want to do is enjoy the game."

Grim reality
Andorra have had little enjoyment from their first four Group E outings, losing all four and conceding 19 goals in the process. "We didn't expect those kinds of results to tell the truth," admitted Sonejee, Andorra's most experienced player with 65 caps. "The other national teams know they're playing against a much weaker side. They are professionals and better teams - that's the reality of things."

Macedonian success
However, competing rather than winning has been the Andorra ethos ever since Sonejee made his debut in his country's first official match, against Armenia in 1998. Highs have been few and far between subsequently, although a 1-0 win against F.Y.R. Macedonia in 2006 FIFA World Cup qualifying gave them a first competitive victory. "The feeling of having won a game was incredible - my fondest memory," Sonejee recalled. "We were always close to winning and on the day we least expected it, we did it."

Tie moved
Few are predicting success as Andorra play England, their chances being further diminished after it was agreed to play the game 200km away from the principality at RCD Espanyol's Estadio Olímpico de Montjuic. Born in Andorra to Indian parents, Sonejee is a little downhearted about the change of venue, yet is hoping Catalan fans will get behind his side. "When we play against great teams like the Netherlands, France and now England, Catalans always come to support us and I'm sure they will come to the game and cheer us on," he said.