All aboard the transatlantic express… England and Spain will be in Brazil next summer.
Roy Hodgson’s men knew that a win against Poland at Wembley would guarantee a place in the World Cup and they delivered with an impressive 2-0 win courtesy of goals from Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard.
Joe Hart won his 37th international cap between the posts, while James Milner capped an influential five minutecameo from the bench by assisting Gerrard for the second goal.
Much of the talk in the build-up to kick-off at Wembley centered on the unprecedented scale of the away support inside the stadium for an England international.
An estimated 18,000 Polish fans ensured that the Three Lions faced an unusually hostile atmosphere as they kicked off the game and perhaps that showed in the early minutes.
On numerous occasions, Poland’s dangerman Robert Lewandowski found himself with shooting opportunities in the opening 25 minutes but a combination of wayward shooting and Hart’s quick reflexes kept the game goalless.
At the other end, City academy graduate Daniel Sturridge was a livewire presence between the centre backs and Andros Townsend picked up where he left off on his dream debut against Montenegro on Friday night, rattling the crossbar with an incredible strike after 26 minutes.
It was a breathless half with both teams eager to go for the jugular from the first whistle but England had the better chances and, on more than one occasion, Danny Welbeck could have notched the goal the home side’s dominance deserved.
However, the pressure finally told and England finally took the lead in the 41st minute courtesy of Wayne Rooney who headed home from an excellent Leighton Baines cross from the left.
After the break, Poland came out on the front foot and only an excellent save from Hart maintained England’s slim advantage on the hour mark.
The City keeper raced off his line to thwart his old adversary Lewandowski, blocking the Dortmund striker’s attempted lob with his body.
Milner was introduced with five minutes to play and he had an immediate impact, threading the ball through to Gerrard who showed great composure and determination to reach the ball and poke it over the onrushing Wojciech Szczesny.
That result meant that England finished top of Group H with Ukraine securing the play-off place after their 8-0 win over San Marino.
Meanwhile, Spain only needed a point from their qualifier against Georgia in Albacete to guarantee a place in the finals and Alvaro Negredo helped them on their way with the first goal in a 2-0 win.
In doing so, La Roja extended their incredible unbeaten run in World Cup qualifying matches to 53 games.
Negredo and Jesus Navas both played the 90 minutes for the world and European champions, while David Silva was an unused substitute
Spain took the lead courtesy of Negredo’s 10th goal in 19 international matches after 26 minutes – a precise finish from close range after a pull-back from Andres Iniesta which followed a flowing team move.
Juan Mata added a second on the hour mark from a Pique assist to ensure that Spain can defend their World Cup crown in Brazil next June.