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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Sep, 9, 2008

Defoe happy with a point from Croatia clash

Jermain Defoe has admitted England would be happy with a draw in Croatia.

The Croats completed the double over England to dump them out of Euro 2008 at the qualifying stage and Saturday's 2-0 win over Andorra hardly suggests coach Fabio Capello has drawn a massive improvement from his players since succeeding Steve McClaren.

Few give England much chance of victory in Zagreb, not least because Croatia have never lost a competitive fixture at the Maksimir Stadium.

And while Capello and John Terry continue to stress the desire for three points, Defoe concedes parity would be regarded as a positive outcome.

''A draw would be a great result in Croatia,'' he said.

''We have to be strong and believe we are going to win because it is a massive game. But the most important thing is to get a result.''

A draw would be welcome as Croatia's general record in qualifying tournaments suggests they will not drop many points before the two sides square up again at Wembley in 12 months' time.

Although the Ukraine and, to a slightly lesser extent, Belarus, will be dangerous opponents, particularly on home soil, Slaven Bilic's team seem able to grind out results from tricky away games, as they did in Israel during the European Championships, something England failed to do.

And with only the group winners sure to reach South Africa and one of the nine runners-up not even reaching the play-offs, the margin for error is not great.

Rio Ferdinand's return to training should bolster England's defence but elsewhere there are problems.

Defoe did not do enough in a disappointing 45 minutes against Andorra to confidently predict he will hold off Emile Heskey's challenge for a starting berth, while the same is also true of Theo Walcott and David Beckham, even though the Arsenal man lasted slightly longer.

Two-goal Joe Cole is almost certain to replace Stewart Downing, although without injured trio Steven Gerrard, Owen Hargreaves and Michael Carrick, the central area of midfield looks vulnerable defensively.

What England do have is a burning desire for revenge.

While it could be reasonably argued they were the architects of their own downfall in both matches against Croatia, through Gary Neville's calamitous own goal in Zagreb, then with their sheer inept defending at Wembley, England still nurse a sense of grievance.

And Defoe feels the added hunger will be a major advantage.

''We owe Croatia one. Our two results against them cost us in the end,'' he said.

''They were both huge disappointments and it does not matter what sport you play, if you lose to someone, you want to beat them next time round.''

Defoe can still recall the empty feeling he experienced as the knowledge England would not be in Austria and Switzerland last summer began to sink in.

And he has no desire to feel such desperation again no matter how good Croatia are on home soil.

''We will be ready this time,'' he said.

''I do not want to feel like that again. It was a horrible experience.

''We know Croatia are excellent at home. We know they are a good side with good players.

''But man for man I honestly believe we are better. It is down to us to show those qualities.''

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