Gerrard savours tremendous feeling
Captain Steven Gerrard shared in the relief around Wembley after scoring one of the goals which sent England to the World Cup finals.
England eventually saw off the challenge of Poland with a 2-0 victory on Tuesday night, securing top spot in Group H ahead of Ukraine, when Liverpool midfielder Gerrard smashed the ball past Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny on 88 minutes as the national stadium erupted.
It brought a positive end to what had at times been a testing qualifying campaign for Roy Hodgson's Three Lions.
"It was a relief for everyone," Gerrard said. "At 1-0 it was very nervous, tense and edgy, you are always thinking that one mistake and you could be in trouble.
"I got a bit of a break with the goal, but when I saw it in the back of the net. It was a tremendous feeling."
The England captain added: "It is a feeling difficult to put into words because I am on such a high.
"I have had some wonderful nights as Liverpool captain and I remember the night when Roy phoned me to tell me I was going to be the permanent captain, the feeling I got when that goal went in tonight, that feeling was maxed."
A fine header from Wayne Rooney had set England on their way just before half-time. The Manchester United striker has now scored nine goals from his last 10 England matches.
Gerrard is in no doubt of Rooney's importance to hopes of continued improvement next summer.
"I have said all along that if we are going to be successful in this team, then Wayne Rooney is key," he said.
"When you go into big competitions, you need strikers to get you important goals and that is why Wayne Rooney is so important for this country - if we are going to do well at the tournament it will be because Wayne Rooney is in good form."
Gerrard hopes England will remain "grounded" as they prepare for Brazil 2014, when the hopes of a nation will again be on their shoulders.
"The opportunity is there. I have said all week there is a good confidence and belief in the group, but at the same time we are going to keep ourselves grounded and stay humble," he said.
"It is important now that it does not flip and everyone thinks we are going to go and win the World Cup, that we are favourites and everyone gets carried away.
"What is important is we have shown everyone we are a good team.
"We have not felt sorry for ourselves when we have had criticism, we have rolled ourselves up, tried to work hard and put it right.
"It is a great feeling to be in Brazil and hopefully we can go in with a little less pressure on ourselves and surprise a few."