England coach Roy Hodgson is picking up “good vibrations” from the rising expectations back home from his side’s Euro 2012 campaign.
Wayne Rooney scored the only goal as England claimed a 1-0 win over co-hosts Ukraine in Donetsk.
With France losing against Sweden, it means England finished top of Group D and now face a quarter-final meeting with Italy in Kiev on Sunday.
“After Fabio Capello resigned people thought the team wouldn’t have enough time with a new coach to prepare,” he said. “Luckily we’ve proved that to be wrong.
“I’m pleased about that. As far as our stays in Ukraine and Poland, I’ve been delighted with that.
“Now we are getting good vibrations from those back home. It’s not really a question of expectations. We want to keep going and try and enjoy this tournament for as long as we can.”
England certainly rode their luck. Rooney’s chance came courtesy of a glaring error by Ukraine keeper Andriy Pyatov three minutes after the break. Then Marko Devic had a goal ruled out even though his second-half shot appeared to cross the line before it was hooked clear by John Terry.
“We don’t have goal-line technology and, even with slow motion, people can’t be 100 per cent certain,” said Hodgson. “We’ve suffered pretty much bad luck in those areas in the past so if it was good luck today then we got it.”
Both Terry and man of the match Steven Gerrard were outstanding for England but attention was focused on Rooney.
The Manchester United man had already missed a gilt-edged opening before the break but did not let that affect him and has now scored 29 goals for England – just one behind Nat Lofthouse, Tom Finney and Alan Shearer, who are joint fifth on the all-time list.
“He’s got character, hasn’t he?” Hodgson said of his talisman. “Those who have followed England and Manchester United, even Everton, you know what Rooney is, what he can do and his qualities.
“He showed them in abundance tonight. He and (Danny) Welbeck worked extremely hard.”
Before the game Hodgson had played down the length of Rooney’s absence.
However, after appearing for just 37 minutes since his final game for United on May 13, the England coach was delighted he almost got through the entire match tonight.
“It was his first game after having to sit these two others out, and it is a while since he played a competitive match, so he’s got to be happy with the way things went for him,” said Hodgson.
“Every day helps him and helps us. The fact he’s had 80 minutes in this game will give him confidence going into the next game.”
Rooney himself hopes England can finally break their quarter-final hoodoo in major tournaments at Euro 2012 and claimed: “I don’t think any team will fancy playing us.”
Of his goal he added: “I haven’t scored at a major tournament for a while so it was nice to get a goal which won us the game. It doesn’t matter who the quarter-final opponents are. The main thing was to get through the group and to finish top.
“We know our qualities and what we’re capable of. We’ve worked hard, done a lot of tactical play in training.
“We’re difficult to beat and I don’t think any team will fancy playing us.”
England reached the last eight in the 2002 and 2006 World Cups plus Euro 2004. Rooney added: “I hope there is the belief we can go past the quarter-finals this time.
“It will be a difficult game against Italy and it will be quite evenly matched in terms of the way we play.”