England boss Roy Hodgson heaped praise on Wayne Rooney but singled out Steven Gerrard after the 1-0 win over Ukraine in Donetsk.
Rooney nodded home the only goal three minutes after the break to earn England top spot on Group D.
The Manchester United forward, back after completing his two-game suspension, had earlier missed a golden opportunity but did not let that affect him and has now scored 29 goals for England - just one behind Nat Lofthouse, Tom Finney and Alan Shearer, who are joint fifth on the all-time list.
"He's got character, hasn't he?" Hodgson said of his talisman.
"Those who have followed England and Manchester United, even Everton, you know what Rooney is, what he can do and his qualities.
"He showed them in abundance tonight. He and (Danny) Welbeck worked extremely hard."
Hodgson had played down the length of Rooney's absence.
However, after appearing for just 37 minutes since his final game for United on May 13, the England coach was delighted he almost got through the entire match.
"It was his first game after having to sit these two others out, and it is a while since he played a competitive match, so he's got to be happy with the way things went for him," said Hodgson.
"Every day helps him and helps us. The fact he's had 80 minutes in this game will give him confidence going into the next game."
Hodgson was eager to spread the praise though, especially as skipper Gerrard collected the man-of-the-match award after delivering the cross for Rooney's goal.
"You've got to single Steven out," he said.
"He has built up to this man of the match award in the previous two games as well, playing a captain's innings throughout.
"The back four were very good today, and the goalkeeper, they kept their shape and discipline extremely well.
"Although there were shots at our goal, they were from distance and didn't really necessitate (Joe) Hart to make saves.
"It was a game to praise the team performance."
Yet Hodgson also conceded his side had ridden their luck, especially when Marko Devic had a goal ruled out even though his shot appeared to cross the line before it was cleared by John Terry.
"The important thing was John Terry did so well to hook the ball off the line," he said.
"We don't have goal-line technology and, even with slow motion, people can't be 100 per cent certain.
"If it was over the line then that was a slice of luck. We've suffered pretty much bad luck in those areas, against Portugal and Germany, so if it was good luck today then we got it."
Hodgson can now brace himself for an outpouring of national fervour as the country starts to believe it can finally win another trophy to go alongside that 1966 World Cup win.
It is a far cry from the low expectations that accompanied England on their departure.
"After Fabio Capello resigned people thought the team wouldn't have enough time with a new coach to prepare," he said.
"Luckily we've proved that to be wrong.
"I'm pleased about that. As far as our stays in Ukraine and Poland, I've been delighted with that.
"Now we are getting good vibrations from those back home.
"It's not really a question of expectations. We want to keep going and try and enjoy this tournament for as long as we can."
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what do you think?
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That was his first 80 mins in about five weeks, give the guy a break. Yeah he was a little rusty, but he worked damn hard. And he's never going to get match-fit unless he's on the pitch playing.
I'm always amazed at how the media (and lots of others) constantly badger our sportsmen and women. England are a relatively small country - often the brunt of mainland Europe's jokes - who step up to the mark and mix it with the World's greatest. We play good rugby, cricket, motorsport, swimming, snooker and, amazingly, a good number of Winter sports. Yet whenever we play footie or tennis we get hounded by the press. Our boys did good last night, and in the previous matches too. Hodgson is a great manager (you can tell even from his comments above) and he has faith in the team. The players have really done us proud and I'll be cheering them on throughout the rest of the tournament!
well said Luis, I will be cheering them on too mate.I have enjoyed all the matches so far...the players have a job to do and they are getting on with it.....no complaints from me lol.....COME ON ENGLAND !!!
We may have won the game, but Ukraine played just as well, and kept the ball better, I can never understand why the goalkeepers keep kicking the ball right up-field, 90% of the time it goes to the opposition
I must have been watching a different match becasue all i saw of rooney was him losing the ball in challenges, giving the ball away with bad passing and generally not chasing when he lost it. Oh and missing the easiest of headers. England looked a much better side without rooney , however he is immensley talented and i hope this poor performance was not a forrunner to even worse - like he had in the last world cup. gerrard was class though
Gerrard was not class mate..mind you neither were a lot of players,but these are the matches we need to win. Roy got it right tho.i wonder if anyone else read his tactics the same way i did.....bring it on
well said Liam.england are the worst team out all of the quarter finalists.it is not realistic that england will win three more games against better teams.