San Marino made history with consecutive draws in competitive games
Argentina-born Dante Rossi was instrumental in the feat
The defender has a big target for San Marino
A 0-0 draw in football does not usually mean great press. It is the score most fans dread when heading to the stadium. That said, when San Marino recently posted two of them, in consecutive UEFA Nations League fixtures against Liechtenstein and Gibraltar, they made an entire nation happy.
It should be understood that, for San Marino, those scoreless draws were very considerable feats, with the team remaining unbeaten in consecutive games for the first time in their history. Against Gibraltar, the performance was all the more special given La Serenissima were reduced to ten men in the 49th minute after a red card for captain Davide Simoncini. Consequently, it didn't take much for centre-back Dante Rossi to shed tears of joy on the conclusion of the second game.
"What was I feeling at that moment? Excitement and happiness at seeing my team-mates so proud and enthusiastic in the dressing room," he told to FIFA.com. "We were striving for results and, thanks to these two draws, we’ve created a bit of football history, as well as sporting history in the broader sense, in our country."
For Dante Rossi the word 'country' takes on a special meaning. Born in Guerrico, a small Argentinian town with fewer than 900 people near Buenos Aires, the 33-year-old defender had to wait almost ten years before obtaining dual nationality via his maternal grandfather from San Marino.
"The law here prevented me from obtaining it sooner," he explained. "Thinking back on all my efforts to obtain a nationality of a country that is so close to my heart also made me very emotional. Getting to wear this jersey was a dream.
"San Marino has always been a part of my life. I’ve always been curious to learn more about my grandfather's roots, which are also mine.
"San Marino is a passionate nation. I always knew it was the oldest republic in the world. I knew its geography and how it’s landlocked in Italy with its famous Monte Titano. I learned its language and its way of life."
If San Marino gave a lot to Rossi, then the opposite is also true. Over just five appearances, the he has managed to solidify a defence in real need of fortification. "Having grown up and played in Argentina, I’m obviously steeped in the football played there," he said. "I have this grit, which I think is unique to Argentinian football."
San Marino striker Adolfo Hirsh (39 caps) is a childhood friend of Dante Rossi. He too grew up in Guerrico.
My idol? Diego Maradona. He was unique and there’ll never be another like him. Among ‘mortals’, I adored Juan Roman Riquelme even though he possessed a different style. He controlled games like no other.
While Rossi has played his part in the team’s impressive recent results, the player is only too aware that it is a collective effort.
"We’ve worked a great deal as a group," he said. "Thanks in particular to our coach Franco Varrella, our mentality and approach to games has changed and evolved, making us more solid and better organised.
"These days, we take to the field in the knowledge that we can compete with our opponents. In short, we’re starting to believe in ourselves and in our potential. I hope this is just the beginning."
We will find out soon enough. The European qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™, the draw for which is being held on 7 December, are on the horizon. This will be an opportunity for La Serenissima to measure themselves against the best of the continent.
"We’re aware that there’s a gap between us and the top European sides, but it’s hard to know how much," said Rossi. "However, we’ve made a lot of progress, of that I’m sure. What we did was nice, but it’s already a thing of the past. We have to keep working, training and believing.
"I hope to participate in these qualifiers, but that will only happen on merit. I'll do everything I can to make it happen. This campaign is all the more exciting as we now have a new goal in our sights: a maiden victory in a competitive match."