Carrick: England can handle flak
Michael Carrick insists England's World Cup qualification was about proving a point to themselves rather than silencing their critics.
Roy Hodgson's men secured safe passage through to next summer's finals in Brazil with back-to-back victories over Montenegro and Poland at Wembley to win Group H by a point ahead of Ukraine, whose hopes now rest in the lottery of the play-offs.
The public reaction and headlines following Tuesday night's triumph - sealed with a first-half goal from Wayne Rooney and a late strike by captain Steven Gerrard which sent the home fans into delirium - were in stark contrast to those which followed a goalless draw in Kiev last month, a result that in hindsight now looks crucial.
However, Manchester United man Carrick, drafted into the starting XI in place of Frank Lampard, maintains the England squad were just focused on delivering the required performance rather than dishing out humble pie.
"We are used to the criticism, it is not about proving anybody wrong, we have had it all of our careers. It is just about going and performing really, we expect high things of ourselves, with high standards, and that is what we set out to achieve," Carrick said.
"There are a lot of matches I have played in with a lot of pressure, but the country expected.
"It was a big match for many reasons, of course we knew that we had to win, but we still had a job to do on the pitch.
"We did not think too much about the consequences of what a win or a loss would be, it was just a case of going out there and performing; we certainly did that.
"We played with freedom and imagination because we knew what we were capable of doing and there is still more to come."
Hodgson must decide the final make-up of his squad for Brazil, with the role of midfield anchor likely to cause some dilemma.
Carrick, 32, sees no reason why the players who make it on the plane should not be able to make an impact at the tournament.
"There is a great strength in the squad with a lot of options," said Carrick.
"I am sure we will improve with the games we have got before the World Cup. Hopefully when we go to Brazil we will have everybody fit and with a good chance."