Roy Hodgson insisted taking England to the World Cup finals in Brazil will be the proudest achievement of his football career.
But he also admitted he had "died a thousand deaths" every time Poland crossed the half-way line as England carved out a deserved but tense 2-0 victory at Wembley to finish top of Group H and qualify for football's most prestigious tournament next summer.
Wayne Rooney and captain Steven Gerrard scored a goal in each half on a night crackling with atmosphere as Wembley was lit up by the passion of 18,000 flare-waving Poles.
It will be the second time Hodgson has been to the World Cup finals - he also guided Switzerland to the 1994 tournament in the United States - but asked whether going to Brazil would top the lot he said: "I think it will.
"The only reason I'm cautious is I don't want to denigrate other achievements, or people in Switzerland to think I wasn't very proud of that achievement and that team.
"To go to a World Cup in '94 and a Euros in '96, that was a pretty good achievement.
"But I'm English. As an Englishman, it means a little bit more to you.
"It means an awful lot. There'll be a lot of pressure on us, but this team is growing in accepting pressure.
"The blend between the senior and young players looks good. I'm hoping they all stay fit because it's made a big difference getting all the young players fit again."
Hodgson also admitted England would have a chance next summer, although he was not getting carried away.
He said: "If you want to win the lottery, buy a lottery ticket. We have our ticket, which is useful in itself.
"I'm not being emotional, but emotions are churning around inside me. I died 1,000 deaths every time they crossed the half-way line, which is what you do.
"I'm delighted for the players. We had to dig in for a spell in the second half, which we did very well.
"Some of the football in the first half was quite spectacular and 1-0 at half-time was scant reward, but we couldn't relax at 1-0, especially with the quality players they have.
"For a team with nothing to play for, they showed a lot of heart and fight. But we came through.
"It's job done. We're very happy, and we're looking forward to going to Brazil, something the whole nation wants and backs us over."
Poland striker Robert Lewandowski could have spoiled the party but he squandered a series of chances, while Tottenham striker Andros Townsend hit the crossbar and Daniel Sturridge and Danny Welbeck both went close for England.
One thing Hodgson is not relishing is choosing his 23 to go to Brazil.
"You want all these guys to go," he said. "And there'll be another 15 I fancy will join us. It'll be a tough job to pick 23.
"A lot more will merit selection on the basis of what they've done or are capable of doing.
"I'm not looking forward to that situation, but I'm not going to contemplate it for the next few months."
Hodgson singled out goalscorers Rooney and Gerrard for special praise, saying: "It was fitting that Gerrard got the goal tonight.
"If someone has played a captain's innings for the team, it was him."
But he also spared a thought for Everton full-back Leighton Baines, who came in for the injured Ashley Cole against Montenegro and Poland and proved crucial.
Hodgson said: "We do (have two of the best left-backs in the world).
"It's amazing to have so many players who, in another era, would have less opposition in terms of their place.
"Leighton's done well. He must be very pleased with his performances in these two games."
Hodgson also insisted England in Brazil would stay true to the attacking ethos in their last two home matches.
He added: "I'd like to think we'll play a very attacking style when we have the ball, but we have to defend as well. You have to be good at both to be a good team."
Meanwhile, Poland manager Waldemar Fornalik said: "England are getting stronger and stronger.
"The way they played the last time we played them and tonight, they look better and better every match they play.
"They will always be among the contenders for the title."