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England reaches World Cup as Rooney, Gerrard score

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ROB HARRIS | October 15, 2013 05:27 PM EST | AP

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LONDON — LONDON (AP) — England qualified for its fifth straight World Cup, beating Poland 2-0 Tuesday night on goals by Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard.

Rooney scored in his seventh goal in his last six qualifiers, meeting Leighton Baines' cross in the 41st minute. Gerrard bundled the ball into the net in the 88th.

England (6-0-4), headed to its 14th World Cup overall, won Group H by one point over Ukraine (6-1-3), which routed last-place San Marino 8-0 and advanced to next month's European playoffs.

Roy Hodgson became the first English manager to secure England's qualification since Glenn Hoddle in 1997. His team may train in the Miami area ahead of the tournament in Brazil and is contemplating a pre-tournament exhibition against the United States.

The presence of at least 18,000 Polish fans inside Wembley made for a lively atmosphere, even though the visitors (3-3-4) already were out of contention for the World Cup.

England ahead when Baines whipped in cross from the left. Rooney, having just lost headgear protecting the cut he sustained during training last month, flicked the ball into the net with his head.

England struggled to find the net again after the break, although Poland nearly gifted England a goal 10 minutes into the second half when Grzegorz Krychowiak turned the ball just wide of his own net.

Gerrard was just side of a post at the hour mark, and goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny saved Rooney's curling strike saved by Szczesny and palmed away Daniel Sturridge.

It took Gerrard to ease the anxieties by lifting the ball over Szczesny with his outstretched right foot.