Fabio Capello has saluted the spirit among his squad that has taken England to the brink of the World Cup following victory over Andorra last night at Wembley.
The 6-0 win over the pathetically weak visitors means Capello’s men maintained their 100% record in Group Six and hold a 10-point lead with three matches left.
England looked disjointed at the end of Steve McClaren’s reign but now have a togetherness following Capello’s first full season in charge.
“We have created a group. This is important, the spirit of the group. We always play to win,” the England boss said. “You have to win another game to be sure of going to South Africa.”
Wayne Rooney got the ball rolling with an early header from Glen Johnson’s cross to ensure there would be no repeat of the Andorra clash in Barcelona earlier in the season when it was goalless at the break.
“We started very strongly, we pressed and created two chances before Rooney’s first goal,” Capello said.
“Always when you play against a team that is not strong you have to play quickly, press and win back the ball. We did this.
“We started not so well against Andorra in our last match. We didn’t score before half-time. But step by step we have moved on and improved.
“We created a group and a different style on the pitch. After every game we improved.”
Frank Lampard added the second before Rooney added another, taking him level with Geoff Hurst’s 24 goals for England.
Rooney also equalled Tommy Taylor’s record of eight competitive goals in a season but was denied a chance to establish a new benchmark as Capello took him off at half-time.
“I decided: ’Thank you very much, have a good holiday’,” Capello said.
Jermain Defoe came off the bench to score twice and Peter Crouch added another to complete the scoring.
Portsmouth full-back Johnson did not score but got the man-of-the-match award for his assists.
“I think the confidence is really important with a player like Glen Johnson for the national team,” Capello said. “It’s important for me, the club he plays for and us that he improved a lot.”
Only 57,897 fans watched the game after the London Underground strike caused travel problems, although Capello has seen worse disruption in his native Italy.
“The strikes are sometimes worse,” he said. “When someone decides to strike it is to create problems but I’m very happy for people who arrived here – 57,000 people is incredible against Andorra.
“We are very happy for the performance of the team. The ones who did not make it would have enjoyed it on TV.”
Capello’s players went on a lap of honour after the final whistle but the season is not over, however, for Theo Walcott, who travels to Sweden with the Under-21s. Capello has no concerns about the youngster needing rest.
“He needed to play to recover his best form,” he said. “Theo is happy but I also understand Arsene (Wenger) because when you start the season he wants him fresh.”
The match also marked David Beckham’s 100th start for England.
“If Beckham is here it is because he is one of the best English players at the moment,” Capello said. “He always plays well as a substitute and this time he played well in the first XI.”