Wayne Rooney hailed England's perfect start to their 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ qualifying campaign as reward for the work ethic instilled in the side by coach Fabio Capello. The Manchester United forward scored twice in the 3-1 win over Belarus, a result which took his team on to maximum points from four games.
"It was a very good result but we had to work very hard for it," said Rooney. "Belarus are a good footballing team. They passed the ball very well, probably in a similar style to Arsenal. But we worked hard and I think we deserved the win."
Rooney settled the contest with two well-taken second-half strikes, but he insisted the plaudits should be shared around. "I give a lot of credit to my team-mates," he said. "."
England were pegged back by Pavel Sitko's equaliser after Gerrard had given them an early lead. But they switched gear in the wake of Capello's half-time pep talk, and ran out comfortable winners. "He told us we had to get tighter to them, get more on the ball and control the game, and we did that in the second half," Rooney added.
Rio Ferdinand, who captained the side in the absence of the injured John Terry, said: "The half-time talk was quite simple. He said push up from the back and keep competing. You think it is going to be rocket science with a foreign minager but he keeps it simple and that is one of his strengths."
Capello revealed he was delighted with the performance. "I am very happy because as I said before the game, it was a very important game for us," he said. "Belarus are a good team and they played very well in the first half.
"We had a good performance up front but what was very important is that we played like a team. If we want to win, we have to play like a team, not like single players. It is very imporant and tonight I saw one team.
"There is no secret - it is about work, creating a group, creating the mentality and the confidence. This is very important because the players are very good players."
The win left England five points clear of Croatia at the top of Group 6, but Capello is taking nothing for granted in the wake of England's failure to reach UEFA EURO 2008. "," the Italian warned.
That theme was echoed by Ferdinand. "It is good to have won four games on the bounce but there is much to improve and it does not mean we have qualified," the Manchester United defender said. "We need to keep trying to improve, doing the simple things right as we do for our clubs and hopefully we will start getting it right for England."
Having admitted earlier this week that he feared for his place after consistently failing to reproduce his Liverpool form for England, Gerrard was pleased to play a central role with a well-taken goal and an assist. "Playing for England you have always got a point to prove," he said.
"You are fighting for the shirt every game. As long as I am in the team and we are winning matches I am happy. I felt I played well tonight. Sometimes I have not hit the heights I would like to for England but I will always give everything for my country."
"The second half we played really, really well. Belarus are a good team who have had some fantastic results and we needed to improve in the second half and we did that."
Gerrard went on to underline the difference that Rooney, in his current form, makes to England. "He's up there with the best players in the world," he affirmed. "He is a special talent and it is a pleasure to play with him."
David Beckham became the third most-capped player in England's history by appearing as a late substitute in Minsk. The Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder may only have been on the pitch for a few minutes, but that was still enough to secure him a 107th cap and relegate Sir Bobby Charlton to fourth place on the list.
One more appearance, possibly in a friendly in Germany next month, would take the 33-year-old equal with Bobby Moore's tally of 108 caps, the highest total by an outfield player. Beckham, however, still has some way to go to match former goalkeeper Peter Shilton's record of 125 appearances for England.