San Marino is rock-bottom of its European qualifying group Group H, with eight losses in as many games. But thanks to Della Valle, its goal difference is now marginally less horrific: 1 goal scored, with 43 conceded.
He scored one of those, too — an own goal that got England rolling to its 8-0 spanking of San Marino in March. Della Valle also had the thrill of captaining San Marino before a crowd of 86,000 at Wembley last October. England — which leads the group with 16 points — won that game 5-0.
"When you walk out first at Wembley and there are 85,000 fans it's something that takes your breath away and for the first 15 minutes your head is swirling," he said. Tuesday's goal "was more an explosion of joy."
Della Valle dedicated the goal to Federico Crescentini, his former San Marino teammate who drowned at age 24 while vacationing in Mexico in 2006, said Gasperoni.
San Marino next plays Moldova away and then receives Ukraine, co-host of the 2012 European Championship with Poland. Ukraine won 9-0 when San Marino traveled to Lviv last week.
But just as every dog dreams of having its day, San Marino clings to the hope that it will win a competitive match eventually. San Marino's Under-21 team led the way with a 1-0 win against Wales in European qualifying this month. That was the first competitive victory for any San Marino national team since its Under-17s beat Andorra 2-1 in 2002.
"We can't think to win against Poland, Ukraine, England, the Netherlands, big, big teams," said Gasperoni. "But in Europe, there are also small teams and if we play against Malta, Armenia, Lichtenstein, Luxembourg, probably we can win."
AP Sports Writer Andrew Dampf in Rome contributed.
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