Confidence and keeping their nerve was the essential aspect of the game to secure a plane to Brazil and that is exactly what occurred early on between England and Poland, despite the hostile atmosphere inside Wembley. The away fans boomed out the national anthem, as well as booing the home anthem. It was as of the game was held in Warsaw not London.
Anyhow, there were glimpses of both teams with, as expected, Robert Lewandowksi shone by tormenting the centre back pairing of Jagielka and Cahill who looked unwilling, maybe nervous to challenge him in case a needless set piece was conceded. The first 15 minutes flown by with great attacking displays, but England were the more threatening due to having more options to score goals.
After 20 minutes, England came ever so close to finding the breakthrough and, despite a wall of Polish jeers, Gerrard wasn’t put off enough to fluff his delivery which turned out to be top notch. Somehow the ball managed to be missed by every single man to skim off the post.
Straight down the other end, Lewandowski nearly sent the Poles berserk after racing into the box to reach Blazczykowski’s searching ball only to scuff from inside the area, in what was normally a routine goal for him.
Man of the moment, Andros Townsend nearly cemented his name in history with a powerful effort from distance that rattled the bar. It was so close that some inside Tue ground were already celebrating. Seconds later, Sturridge failed to pull the trigger under the pressure of a defender who was flat on the floor.
Chances from Welbeck, Rooney, Townsend, Sturridge, Gerrard and Baines all came close but no cigar. England were not knocking the door, they were smashing the door with bundles created. Inside and out of the 18 yard box, none could find the sweet sight of the white net. Shades of 1973 surely came flooding back to fans with bodies being thrown on the line, up until…
41 gone and his header nestled in the corner. Baines, who was free on the left, picked out the United man through a whipped ball in to put it on a plate. All the pace was generated from the cross, therefore Rooney’s job was made easier. It was a deserved reward for the constant waves of attack from the three lions, but they lost their concentration at the back almost immediately.
Sobota ghosted in to poke home, however, fortunately for England he was half a yard offside. Despite this, the visitors cheers were a whole lot louder than the ones once the deadlock was broken.
Luckily, England regained their foothold so a second goal was anticipated following a sloppy start which almost resulted in an early equaliser through Klich. There were penalty calls, but they were rightfully waved away because the shot hit off Cahill’s legs, not hands or arms.
Although Poland came close to conceding an own goal, in the back of fans’ minds it just seemed inevitable that the scoreline would be levelled. Talking off inevitability, Lewandowksi timed his run to perfection that beat the offside trap to give himself a 1v 1 with Joe Hart but, to his credit, he made himself as big as possible to distract the Dortmund striker to summarize a frustrating outing for him.
With just over 10 minutes to spare, Daniel Sturridge forced a save from Arsenal man Szczesny following a venomous shot that was surprisingly taken with is right foot. It was the Liverpool man’s final contribution of the night because Roy decided it was time to bring on Jack Wilshere, Lampard and Milner, though not all at once, to add to the midfield.
Roy Hodgson. Tactical genius. All the tension. All the anxiety. It all became a distant memory as soon as Mr reliable netted. Steven Gerrard stabbed the ball into the net which concluded a roller coaster of a night that culminated in utter joy, relief and for some people partly disbelief.
A long hard road has been conquered. Get the flags out the attic and book your plane to Rio. The Maracana might just be our final destination in Brazil. Time to dream. No matter how unrealistic it may be.