The expression on Roy Hodgson's face said it all as he entered the press conference room deep in the bowels of Wembley Stadium on Tuesday night.
It not only portrayed relief that England, after 90 minutes fraught with tension, had gained the victory they required against Poland to qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, but also his joy that, as a proud Englishman, he will lead his country in Brazil next summer.
The outcome of England's final Group H qualifier hung in the balance until the 88th minute. With Poland always carrying the threat of an equaliser that would have consigned the hosts to November's play-offs, Hodgson and the majority of the 85,186 inside the national stadium could not rest easy until captain Steven Gerrard added to Wayne Rooney's first-half opener.
For Hodgson, whose side finished the ten-game campaign unbeaten, it was a case of "job done" after a second home win in five days. "We had to dig in for a spell at the start of the second half, which we did very well, and some of our football in the first half was quite spectacular – 1-0 at half-time was scant reward," he said.
"You always know at 1-0 that you can't relax, especially when the opposition have quality players like [Jakub] Błaszczykowski and [Robert] Lewandowski on the pitch. I thought, for a team with nothing to play for, they showed a lot of heart and fight. We came through – it's job done, we're very happy about that – and we're all looking forward to going to Brazil."
Poland more than played their part in an open contest, one which was perhaps too much so for Hodgson's liking. Out of contention following their 1-0 defeat by Ukraine on Friday, Waldemar Fornalik's charges adopted a carefree approach that caused the England manager a fair degree of discomfort. "Quite a few emotions are churning around inside me," Hodgson explained. "I died a thousand deaths every time they crossed the halfway line."
The forthcoming finals will be Hodgson's second as a coach, the 66-year-old having steered Switzerland to the 1994 edition in the United States, a tournament England failed to qualify for. When asked where this present accomplishment ranks in his career, he said: "It will top the lot, though the only reason I'm cautious in answering that question is that I don't want to denigrate other achievements.
"For Switzerland to go to a World Cup in '94 and a European Championship in '96 after 30 odd years of no qualification was a pretty good achievement, but I'm English and you can't get away from the fact that, as an Englishman, it means a little bit more to you when you can do it with your national team."
Fornalik, meanwhile, was in no doubt as to his side's Achilles heel at the end of a campaign in which Poland came fourth in the six-team section. "The qualifiers were like the match tonight: we created chances, didn't take them and then conceded some sloppy goals," he said. "We have proved this autumn that we can play really good football – it's just a matter of scoring more goals to get extra points."
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