15/10/2013 17:48 BST | Updated 16/10/2013 12:18 BST

England 2-0 Poland: Three Lions Qualify For World Cup

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 15: Wayne Rooney of England celebrates scoring their first goal during the FIFA 2014 World Cup Qualifying Group H match between England and Poland at Wembley Stadium on October 15, 2013 in London, England. (Photo by Matt Lewis - The FA/The FA via Getty Images)

It will take more than Roy Hodgson's pragmatism to redeem English football but the national side will be gaping at Christ the Redeemer in eight months' time. Although it was not as memorable or iconic as Glenn Hoddle's side in Rome 16 years previously, England have qualified for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil following victory over a gamely Poland side.

A samba beat blared out around Wembley as spectators headed for the exits with a Brazilian jig in their stride. Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard's Liverpudlian double secured qualification on an efficient night at Wembley to banish concerns of a potential playoff tie with France.

Although 18,000 tickets were officially distributed the Polish contingent was well into the 20,000s and, like Scotland's Tartan Army, embarrassed the home contingent. It is unsurprising Wembley is not the daunting arena it once was when pre-match entertainment consists of "Bongo Cam" and souvenirs are fired into the crowd, treating football like the American equivalent.

The vibrancy the Poles sparked in the stands seemed to unsettle England on the pitch. Gerrard was guilty of ceding possession twice in the opening moments but Robert Lewandowski could not play Borussia Dortmund teammate Błaszczykowski through.

In an absorbing opening 10 minutes both goalkeepers' handling was tested. Although Joe Hart easily held on to a Lewandowski effort, Wojciech Szczęsny palmed Andros Townsend's strike towards Danny Welbeck, who could not readjust quickly enough.

Anxiety was mostly on show at the opposite end in the early stages. Błaszczykowski and Lewandowski linked up auspiciously on the break as Waldemar Sobota hit Hart's side-netting. Chris Smalling, exposed regularly by Manchester City at right-back last month in the derby, was evidently uncomfortable and often drawn inside to cover for the lagging Gerrard and Michael Carrick.

Favoured over club colleague Phil Jones by his former Fulham coach, Smalling reacted late to an inviting Gerrard free-kick on 21 minutes but was soon scrambling back as Poland's pacy forward line engineered an opening for Lewandowski, who dragged his shot wide as the nerviness intensified.

Greed then got the better of Daniel Sturridge as he overlooked a favourably poised Gerrard before Andros Townsend, more closely monitored than he was against the Montenegrins, unleashed a cracking left-footed strike which cannoned off the crossbar. Szczęsny repelled a Sturridge shot from the follow-up in a scene reminiscent of Jan Tomaszewski's heroics 40 years ago.

England rued another missed chance from a set-piece with the contest goalless after half-an-hour. Welbeck's profligacy with Manchester United has not mirrored his respectable England form, but he hurried one effort wide from six yards out, yet England were now in the ascendant.

Rooney produced a more assured save from Szczęsny as Carrick's selection gave England greater control and mobility centrally, albeit at the occasional cost of overlooking the acres Leighton Baines found himself in. It was ultimately Poland's undoing.

Rooney celebrates his opener

A brief probing spell allowed Carrick to quicken the pace with an erudite pass to the Everton left-back, whose pinpoint cross was nodded in efficiently by Rooney on 41 minutes. Rooney, at 27, trails Sir Bobby Chalrton's goalscoring record by just 11.

England succumbed to one of football's many clichés as half-time arrived at the wrong time. Moments after the pause Błaszczykowski skipped through and squared for substitute Mateusz Klich, whose goal-bound side-footer was blocked by Gary Cahill. Poland were clicking with Klich, and earned two corners in as many minutes as Hart was called upon again.

Rooney, revelling as a No.10 in the No.10 role for club and country, rallied England quickly as the frantic theme continued. His teasing cross almost culminated in an own goal and Cahill was denied by Szczęsny from the resultant corner. Grzegorz Krychowiak came close to emulating Montenegro's Branko Bošković but his attempted clearance slid just wide of his own net.

England still could not double their lead and Lewandowski still could not get the beating of Hart. The roaming Błaszczykowski pinged a glorious 30-yard pass which the Dortmund striker failed to kill, allowing Hart an extra second to widen his frame and thwart his toe-poke.

Nerves were complemented by confusion when Carrick, seemingly unhurt and characteristically calm, was withdrawn to reunite Gerrard with Frank Lampard, as the formation remained the same. Ironically for the conservative Hodgson, it was a positive move with 19 minutes remaining.

Lampard was disastrous in possession and was booked four minutes after his introduction. Hodgson summoned Jack Wilshere and withdrew the disappointing Sturridge to secure the lockdown.

The switch enabled Gerrard to venture further forward and it was he who sealed England's ticket to South America with a neat dink in the 88th minute.