The Three Lions captain ensured his side’s progression to Brazil with a late second goal to see off Poland at Wembley, while Leighton Baines is not taking his place for granted
England captain Steven Gerrard has compared securing World Cup 2014 qualification with his best memories as a Liverpool player.
The midfielder sealed a 2-0 win over Poland with a late second goal at Wembley, prompting wild celebrations, after Wayne Rooney had put the hosts ahead in the first half.
“I’ve had some wonderful nights as a Liverpool player and captain but to lead the team to Rio is a special feeling,” Gerrard told the FA’s official website.
“You can see my reaction after the second goal, when we knew it was in the bag, how happy I was.
“I got a little bit of a lucky break but I gave it everything I’ve got. I was tired and didn’t have much left in the locker but it was one final push.
“It was a great team performance all round. I know myself and Wayne got the goals but it was a great effort from the squad. Everyone has played their part; this team has been through it all.
“We’ve had a bit of criticism, and had highs and lows, but what we have shown is that we’ll never give up and we’ll keep fighting.
“Everyone’s pulling in the right direction for the team. People don’t understand how much pressure we’ve been under over the last eight or nine days – must-win games, big games in front of our own crowd and everyone expecting.
“It’s been tough but we’ve pulled through and it’s all because we’ve got a wonderful team spirit.”
Left-back Leighton Baines, who provided the assist for Rooney’s headed goal 41 minutes into an exciting but tense first half, was relieved and excited to secure the Three Lions’ ticket to Brazil.
“We were creating a lot of chances and you start to … not become anxious, but you want to see one go in sooner rather than later,” he explained. “Thankfully I put the ball in and Wayne’s great in the air and produced a really good header.”
Asked if he was looking forward to assuming his place on the plane next summer, the defender insists that nobody is not taking selection for granted.
He joked: “I’m available, if invited!
“A lot can happen between now and then but we start our preparation and can look forward to getting out there. It’s very special to play in a World Cup, to be in Brazil. Everyone’s fighting for their place.”