Harry Kane described it as a dream come true after England stumbled to qualification for the World Cup.
Kane poked home Kyle Walker’s cross in the fourth minute of stoppage-time to give Gareth Southgate’s side a scrappy 1-0 victory over Slovenia on Thursday and secure their place in Russia with one match still to play.
His late intervention not only spared the team’s blushes after a dreary display that offered little encouragement for next summer’s tournament, it provided the perfect ending to Kane’s night, which had begun with him leading the side out as captain.
“I’m extremely proud, not just for myself but for the team, for the nation,” Kane said.
“We should enjoy tonight, it’s no easy thing getting to a World Cup. There are some big countries around the world that are struggling. I’m delighted, the team are delighted.
“To lead that team out and to have the game pan out like it did, as a striker you dream of that kind of moment, scoring a last-minute winner, so for that to happen here at Wembley is incredible.”
Kane had been largely starved of service by a stodgy England performance but such is the 24-year-old’s brilliant form, he still managed to extend his streak to 14 goals in nine matches.
England’s fans were not so much angry at their team’s limp display as bored, with some sections of the home support more interested in paper aeroplanes, which were being thrown towards the pitch.
“It’s not just hard on me, it’s hard on everyone. We just have to stick together,” Kane said.
“We were out there talking a few times, trying to keep each other going, to keep the pressure on in the second half. I thought we did that well.
“They got tired, they came out a bit trying to get the win and we took advantage of that. We had a few chances and I was happy to put one away.”
Slovenia had chances themselves and could even have won the game had Joe Hart not made a brave double save – the first with his body, the second with his left foot – towards the end of the 90 minutes.
“That one hurt,” Hart said. “I like to get involved and do something when I can so it’s nice to set up a win like that.”
Hart’s form has come under scrutiny during this qualifying campaign but Southgate has opted to keep faith with the West Ham stopper, rather than promote Jack Butland, Fraser Forster or Jordan Pickford.
“I feel good,” Hart said. “But you know what football is like, it can bite you in the bum. I’m going to stay the same guy.
“That’s my role to take criticism. I stick with the guys that matter – the two managers I’ve got and the two bunches of team-mates I’ve got. People can talk all they want to talk.”