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Oct 15, 2013

Gerrard: England must keep improving

England captain Steven Gerrard believes Roy Hodgson's side will need to retain possession of the ball for longer periods if they are to make an impact in the World Cup finals next summer.

Gerrard's late goal against Poland at Wembley confirmed England's progress to Brazil 2014, yet the skipper admitted there is room for improvement on a night when the visiting Polish side created some guilt-edged chances.

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"The big lesson from tonight is we have got to play better second half. Against better teams, maybe we might get hurt," Gerrard told ITV. "We need to keep the ball better in the opposition half when it gets tough, but what we showed tonight is when it gets tough we don’t concede goals. We are getting better defensively."

Gerrard went on to admit he felt the pressure of trying to lead his side to the World Cup finals, but insisted the media criticism that has flowed in the direction of Hodgson and England during their qualifying campaign is nothing new.

"Since I made my debut for England, there has always been criticism  from the outside, but it makes you stronger, makes you work harder to prove people wrong," he added. "We know there is a great togetherness in the squad and that's all that matters really.

"We fight for each other and under tremendous pressure, we have proved we can perform. That was for our supporters who can go and get themselves booked for Brazil now."

Gerrard conceded there were a number of nervy moments during England's qualification campaign but believes Hodgson has found the perfect blend of youth and experience.

"It has been a collective effort over two years. It was nice to get on the score sheet, I cannot describe the pressure on the lads," Gerrard told the BBC. "We have proved there is hope. There is big confidence within the group. It is important to stay humble, as there is a long way to go.

"The manager has created a great blend of youth and experience. It was a relief, it was very emotional at times. We have had a lot of criticism, so to get over the line was a lot of relief.

"The tension has been immense, even in the game. At the back of your mind, you are thinking one mistake could put us in the play-offs.

"It is such a proud feeling. I have had many for my club, but it is nice to do that for your country as well. It has been a long couple of days since Friday. We had a lot of time to kill. I had total belief and confidence. We must now stay humble and grounded."

Man of the match Wayne Rooney suggested patience was the key to England's victory against the Poles, with his opening goal calming a few fraying nerves at Wembley just before half-time.

"A big part of our preparations was being patient," the Manchester United striker said. "We maintained our concentration and focus and fully deserved the win. We have always remained positive no matter what has been said.

"We had a great focus and believe about ourselves. Going into these two games there was a lot of belief amongst the players, amongst the manager and we have gone out and showed that we are good team.

"We have some fantastic young players in the team and some good experienced players as well. We are excited. These are good times for England."

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