John Terry admitted that England would be happy with a draw from the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ qualifier with Croatia here Wednesday, in what is seen as Fabio Capello's first major test as coach.
With the jeers that accompanied their lacklustre 2-0 win over tiny Andorra in their opening qualifier on Saturday still ringing in their ears, Capello and his players are under pressure to deliver against the Group Six favourites.
But Terry, whom Capello has re-appointed as captain, was keen to massage expectations downwards ahead of a third meeting in 23 months with opponents who beat England home and away in the qualifying campaign for UEFA EURO 2008.
"The campaign will not be judged on one match but if we win the game we can take control (of the group)," the Chelsea defender said. "The memories of last time, home and away, will be enough to get the lads fighting - it's a fresh start for everyone - a new campaign with everybody fighting for a place under the new manager.
"If we can win, then great. But if we draw it is a very good result too. They haven't lost here for a while and that is something we're aware of."
Terry was injured when England last visited Zagreb in October 2006 and the reshuffled 3-5-2 formation sent out in his absence was beaten 2-0, thanks in part to goalkeeper Paul Robinson's air kick at a Gary Neville passback which gifted the Croatians their opening goal.
"It was not nice to watch that game," Terry said. "The last time we were here, maybe we were favourites but that has probably changed around a bit now.
"They had a good EURO (Croatia went out on penalties to Turkey in the quarter-finals) and they have got some good players. So we will respect them, but not in a way that we fear them."
Capello has made it clear he will not be indulging in any tinkering with England's defensive structure, into which Rio Ferdinand will return following his recovery from a neck and back injury which forced him to sit out the Andorra game.
Everton's Joleon Lescott will make way and Capello admitted he was relieved to have Ferdinand back for a fixture he admits is as much about repairing the psychological damage inflicted by the failure to reach EURO 2008 as it is about points.
"Rio is one of our leaders on the pitch and in the dressing room and he is a very important player for us," Capello said.
The Italian has yet to coax anything like a truly convincing performance out of his new charges, but he was confident that the work done on the training ground would result in an improvement on the Andorra match and on last month's equally uninspiring friendly draw with the Czech Republic.
"I think that we work very well in these nine days and I saw the players with a lot of confidence," Capello reported. "We are better day by day and I am sure that tomorrow will be okay."
England's head coach must decide whether to persevere with the pace of Theo Walcott on the right wing or recall David Beckham and whether to reward Joe Cole for his two-goal substitute's appearance against Andorra with a place in the starting line-up, which would come at the expense of Stewart Downing.
Typically, he offered no clues as to his thinking on either issue, but he did hint that his line-up would be finalised with defensive considerations his first priority.
"You have to pay a lot of attention to the Croatian counter attacks, and they are also very dangerous on freekicks and corners," he said. "This is one of the strong points of Croatia but we have to play with confidence and without fear and play very quickly.
"We have a lot of players with big experience, players who have played in the final of the Champions League. We have to play like a group, like a team - not individual players. This is very important."