Wayne Rooney hailed what he believes are “good times” for England after the Three Lions booked their place at next summer’s World Cup finals in Brazil.
The striker’s header set Roy Hodgson’s men on their way to a 2-0 win over Poland at Wembley. The victory, combined with Friday’s 4-1 win over Montenegro, ensured England topped Group H.
Rooney was a happy man – especially after captain Steven Gerrard put the icing on the cake late on.
“We knew it was going to be a tough game, they had a couple of breaks and could have scored, but we played some great stuff in the first and second half,” he said.
“Getting the goal gave us some belief, the confidence to go on.
“We believed we could win and then Stevie’s goal has seen us qualify.”
The Manchester United man added: “A big part of our preparation was being patient.
“We knew we may even have to win the game in the last 10, five minutes. We kept our focus and deserved to win. We always remained positive, no matter what was said. We had a great focus and belief going into these two games. That came out.
“We have some fantastic young players, experienced ones like Steve, Frank (Lampard) and me.
“We have a good blend, are looking forward, excited and these are good times for England.”
Captain Gerrard, who led from the front as he has done throughout what became an unbeaten qualifying campaign, added: “We started really well.
“The big lesson is to play better in the second half. Against better teams we might get hurt. We need to keep the ball better.
“But what we have shown is, when the going gets tough, we don’t concede goals.”
England have faced some media and fan criticism throughout the campaign, but Gerrard said: “Since I made my England debut there has always been criticism from the outside.
“What it makes you do is work harder to prove people wrong.
“We have a great togetherness, are there for each other and proved we can perform under pressure.”
When Gerrard scored, Hodgson danced a jig while assistant Ray Lewington sprinted down the touchline.
“That second goal took about 10 years off both of us – and I need it more than Ray,” said the England boss.
“I have great satisfaction. This was a very tough group with a lot of tough games. Ukraine, Poland, Montenegro have all shown themselves to be very good opponents.
“I am delighted for the players. We played some sensational football in the first half and in the second, when the Poles had not so much to lose, we dug in and worked hard to control them.
“Luckily Steve’s goal gave Ray the chance to show his sprinting ability!”