England eager to break Croatia run

ZAGREB (Reuters) - England hope to put behind their gloomy recent experiences against Croatia when they travel to Zagreb on Wednesday for an early key World Cup qualifier.

England's Wayne Rooney (L) talks to Jermaine Jenas (C) and Ashley Cole during a team training session at the Olympic Stadium in Barcelona, September 5, 2008. REUTERS/ Eddie Keogh

Croatia beat England twice in the Euro 2008 qualifiers, costing them a place in June’s finals in Switzerland and Austria and coach Steve McLaren his job.

“We owe them one,” England skipper John Terry, who expects to be rejoined in the centre of defence by Rio Ferdinand, told reporters after his side’s laboured 2-0 win over Andorra in Barcelona on Saturday.

“But this is a fresh campaign, a fresh start,” he added. “Even though losing (in Zagreb) two years ago is at the back of the players’ minds, we are not seeking revenge but three points.”

“It will be two massive wins in the group and that is what we’re aiming to do.”

Croatia manager Slaven Bilic, whose side cruised to a 3-0 victory over Kazakhstan in their opening Group Six match, said the two sides are now even better equipped than in the previous campaign.

“I expect a better England team, but we are also in better shape. England did not excel against Andorra but they have great individuals who can turn any match in their favour.

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“I believe details will decide again. Both sides know everything about each other,” Bilic, a reported target for the managerial vacancy at former club West Ham United, said.


Bilic is likely to make only one change to the team with Mladen Petric, a goalscoring substitute against the Kazakhs, a possible starter ahead of Ivan Klasnic.

Croatia are still without Arsenal striker Eduardo Da Silva who scored against England in Zagreb two years ago but is sidelined with a broken leg and unlikely to join the squad until November.

Manchester United defender Ferdinand should shake off the neck and back ailments that kept him from the Andorra game and replace Joleon Lescott at the heart of England’s back four.

David Beckham, who came on as a late substitute against Andorra, will earn his 105th cap if he plays and either he or David Bentley is expected to start on the right with teenager Theo Walcott dropping back to the bench.

England manager Fabio Capello is yet to decide whether Joe Cole, who came on as a substitute and scored both goals against Andorra, will start but Emile Heskey is likely to retain his place in attack after also coming off the bench on Saturday.

Possible teams:

Croatia: Stipe Pletikosa; Robert Kovac, Josip Simunic, Vedran Corluka, Danijel Pranjic; Niko Kovac, Luka Modric, Darijo Srna, Ivan Rakitic; Ivica Olic, Mladen Petric

England: David James; Wes Brown, Rio Ferdinand, John Terry, Ashley Cole; David Beckham, Frank Lampard, Gareth Barry, Joe Cole; Wayne Rooney, Emile Heskey

Additional reporting by Mike Collett in Barcelona, Editing by Padraic Halpin