The 4-1 win over Montenegro means England will progress straight to next summer's World Cup finals in Brazil if they beat the Poles at Wembley.
Failure would at least come with the sweetener of a play-off spot.
Yet, with France among the potential opponents on that hazardous path, Hodgson would prefer to be looking ahead to friendly meetings with Germany and either Argentina or Uruguay in November.
So he quickly cut through the euphoria generated by a sparkling second-half display to bring his players down to earth with a hefty bump.
"Sometimes it is easier to be harsh when people have done well - and I was harsh," he said. "I was very keen to point out one or two things to them. It wasn't anything celebratory.
"I will say this until I am blue in the face, but the one thing I want to guard against is complacency.
"I don't imagine there will be any, and certainly after the things I said to them they will have a pretty good idea where I stand on the subject."
It is another welcome side to Hodgson, following on from the adventure of a team selection that saw 22-year-old Andros Townsend handed his debut on the right wing when there were more conservative alternatives.
There is a theme developing.
For, with Kyle Walker suspended this week - which is likely to see Phil Jones or Chris Smalling handed the right-back berth - and Tom Cleverley missing with a calf injury, Hodgson elected to reinforce his squad by plucking 18-year-old Liverpool wide-man Raheem Sterling from under-21 duty.
"If there are any areas in our squad where perhaps an extra type of player could be useful, it is in the wide areas," Hodgson said.
"We will have Danny Welbeck and Andros Townsend, and Tom Cleverley could have played there but he has gone.
"If we need him, Raheem Sterling is the type of player who could do what Andros did on Friday."
With Ashley Cole ruled out by the rib injury that prevented him being in contention to face Montenegro, Leighton Baines will continue at left-back.
Few further changes are anticipated for a game England will be expected to win against opponents whose interest in the competition is over.
However, there are numerous examples of problems being encountered in such situations.
England's failure to beat Poland in 1973 came against a team who were also attempting to qualify.
The shambolic defeat by Croatia in 2007 that cost England a place at Euro 2008 came even though their opponents had already made it through.
And possibly the most memorable moment of David Beckham's career came when he curled home a stoppage-time free-kick to snatch an Old Trafford draw against a Greece outfit who finished behind Finland in that particular section.
Little wonder Hodgson is taking nothing for granted in what must rank as the biggest week of his career, despite his protestations to the contrary.
"They know it is only half the job," said Hodgson, when asked for the dressing-room mood immediately after the final whistle on Friday.
"Overall, it was a mood of quiet satisfaction."
- Sports & Recreation
- Andros Townsend
- Tom Cleverley