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The FA's appointment of the much-maligned former Liverpool boss has been vindicated following England's unbeaten qualification to the World Cup in Brazil next summer

COMMENT
By Greg Stobart at Wembley

It was a somewhat rocky 403-day qualifying campaign for Roy Hodgson but it ended with the proudest achievement of his management career as England booked their place at next summer's World Cup on Tuesday night.

The 66-year-old is the fifth Englishman to take his country to a World Cup, the first since Glenn Hoddle in 1998, and, as 'Mas Que Nada' boomed out of the Wembley sound system, it felt like simply being in Brazil will be quite enough.

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England will not win the tournament but the incremental progress under Hodgson provides vindication for the Football Association and, at last, some optimism surrounding the national team.

Commissions, poor coaching, lack of ball retention and negative tactics have dominated the agenda in recent times and England's talent pool is clearly miles behind the likes of Spain, Germany, Brazil and even Belgium.

Yet impressive back-to-back performances against Montenegro and Poland proved that Hodgson is the best man to work with the tools England have at their disposal.

"I think so," said Hodgson when asked if qualification for Brazil 2014 was the best moment of his career. "I don't want to denigrate my other achievements, or for people in Switzerland to think I wasn't very proud of reaching the World Cup in 1994 or the Euros in 1996 but I'm English. As an Englishman, this means a little bit more.

"It means an awful lot. There'll be a lot of pressure on us in Brazil but this team is growing and accepting that pressure. The blend between the senior and young players looks good. We'll use the next six or seven months to reflect on the tournament."

As the tension took hold on Tuesday night, Hodgson was caught on camera using increasingly industrial language - the type you might expect more from Harry Redknapp than a man who speaks six languages and cites 'The Engineer of Human Souls' by Josef Skvorecky as one of his favourite books.

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Hodgson had batted off Redknapp's criticism of the FA and England's style of play in the build-up to two must-win games to avoid the embarrassment of failure to qualify for the World Cup from one of the easier European qualifying groups.

England went unbeaten in 10 qualifiers and have lost just once in 22 matches under the 66-year-old, who steered the team through difficult trips to Podgorica, Warsaw, Chisinau and Kiev.

It was a slog at times and both Hodgson and the players were rightly criticised for negative tactics, poor use of the ball and lack of attacking spark; all legitimate concerns, particularly in light of his failure at Liverpool.

But Hodgson has kept the players on side and, when it really mattered, made brave calls - from the bold decision to start Andros Townsend to dropping Jack Wilshere and Frank Lampard. He would admit himself that he has still been learning, despite his wealth of experience having managed 16 teams in eight different countries.

There are signs that England are finding the blend between youth and experience, defence and attack, without the manager having to repeat Tuesday's experience when he "died a thousand deaths every time they crossed the halfway line".

Hodgson can relax, at least for now, knowing that he did what he had to do. England are going to Brazil.

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