England's senior players, including David Beckham and John Terry, are attempting to quash any talk of revenge as they prepare for a 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ qualifier against Croatia on Wednesday that could begin to define the new Fabio Capello era. It was Croatia who dramatically ended England's hopes of qualifying for UEFA EURO 2008 when they won 3-2 at Wembley last November, a result that ultimately led to the sacking of coach Steve McClaren.
Slaven Bilic's side also beat England 2-0 at home during the same campaign, and the wounds from both those defeats still fester for many players in the England camp. Their return to Zagreb, so early on the road to South Africa 2010, is certain to bring calls for both revenge but Beckham, in particular, is anxious to avoid any further hype.
Having stuttered to a 2-0 victory over Andorra in their opening match in Group 6, this is hardly the time for England to indulge in overblown statements, particularly as they have yet to impress under Capello - the man brought in at great expense to save English football from another summer home alone in 2010. "It's not about having a score to settle," insisted Beckham.
"We just want to get a good result and put a good performance in, that's the thing. It's not about settling old scores and old games we've played against Croatia because we know they are a tough team, we know they've got some really good players and we know it's very hostile there. and we have to work towards what we want to achieve in this group."
We have to forget about what has gone on in the past. This is the present
Beckham's message was echoed by his captain in Barcelona, where England will continue to be based until flying to Zagreb on Monday evening. "I don't want to get across any kind of revenge message but, at the same time, it's a new campaign and we are going there to pick up three points so if we can get off to a good six-point start then we will take that," said Terry.
"We have to rise to the challenge. We know it's difficult and we know they have not been beaten there for a long time. We have to go there with a clean slate and not think about the last game we played against them."
It will be interesting to see what changes, if any, Capello makes to his team after he needed Joe Cole to come off the bench and save England against Andorra with two quick goals early in the second half at the Estadi Olimpic. Certainly the Chelsea player will hope to replace the ineffective Stewart Downing in the starting line-up, while Beckham, left on the bench against Andorra as Arsenal's Theo Walcott was handed a chance, is tipped to return for a game in which experience will be crucial.
But the former England captain is positioning himself very much as a team player these days. "We will have to wait and see if I start the next game. At the end of the day it's all about a squad, I've already said that," commented Beckham.
"I was happy to get on and get another cap but I think the players stuck together against Andorra, and we have done all week. We've worked hard together as a unit, not just the starting 11 but everybody else that's in the squad.
"Obviously I've got experience but there's other players that are younger than me that have got experience just by the fact that they have played in some of the biggest games in the world. We've got that experience and we will need it on Wednesday."