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England going all out to beat Croatia

18 November 2007 19:12

LONDON (AFP) - Steve McClaren insists there is no chance of England playing for a draw against Croatia as his side try to get the point they need to reach Euro 2008.

England will clinch their place in next year's finals if they avoid defeat in their final Group E fixture at Wembley on Wednesday but McClaren believes it is too dangerous to send his side out to defend.

Russia's shock defeat in Israel on Saturday has granted England an unexpected reprieve and, with their destiny in their own hands at last, McClaren is determined to go for the kill.

With that in mind, McClaren has called up Darren Bent to replace Michael Owen, who is out with the thigh strain he sustained in Friday's friendly win against Austria.

Manchester United midfielder Owen Hargreaves is also back in the squad after recovering from tendonitis.

"It's not in England's nature to go and play for a draw," McClaren said.

"We're there, we're in the driving seat. It's us to us to make sure we finish the job off.

"Whatever the formation is going to be, we have to be positive and go out to win the game.

"That is what we've been doing in the second half of the campaign. That has got us results and we must continue that.

"That's how we are going to get a result on Wednesday. But we must get the balance because ultimately we know a cleansheet will get us through."

McClaren admits failure to qualify now would be completely unacceptable.

"There's no way. This is the last game. There are no excuses. We have got ourselves in this position and we have to get the job done."

In an effort to keep morale high in the squad, McClaren will ask the injured and suspended players including John Terry, Wayne Rooney, Michael Owen, Gary Neville and Rio Ferdinand to come to Wembley as well.

England are odds-on to make it to Austria and Switzerland but memories of their nail-biting World Cup qualifier against Greece in 2001 will ensure McClaren takes nothing for granted.

Even though Greece were already eliminated, it took a last minute David Beckham free-kick to book England's place in the finals.

McClaren said: "It's not a forgone conclusion. Croatia have qualified and they are a good team when they are relaxed.

"I remember the Greece game. I was on the bench. We needed a draw and Greece had nothing to play for.

"That was another one of those nerve wracking moments you never forget. David Beckham's free kick with the last kick in injury-time to go through. I hope it doesn't come to that but that's how dangerous Croatia can be on Wednesday.

"That is the first thing I am going to stress to the players. Quite a few of them are still here so they know."

It was nerve-wracking enough on Saturday night for McClaren. He started to watch the Israel match with his family at England's hotel just outside London, but the tension proved too much and he ended up locking himself in the bathroom to escape the agony.

Kevin Keegan, one of McClaren's England predecessors, had resigned in the Wembley toilets after a defeat against Germany, but McClaren's fate took a turn for the better after his trip to the bathroom.

He came back into the room when he heard the jubilant shouts from his two sons as Israel scored their last minute winner.

"I actually slipped off to the bathroom. I couldn't watch the last 10 minutes," he said.

"My boys had a big cheer when Israel scored their second goal. I thought it was the end of the game, so imagine my delight when I found the game wasn't over and it was 2-1.

"I can't believe the whole nation actually sat through 95 minutes. I don't know how they could.

"It was too tense but it wasn't about the game, it was about the result."

There was little celebrating by McClaren and his staff after the final whistle in Israel because the tense week had drained them of all energy.

"We just had a meal with the families and the staff. We were exhausted from the build-up and just wanted to get back to bed," he said.

McClaren is likely to stiffen his midfield by picking Hargreaves on Wednesday and has to decide whether to keep faith with goalkeeper Paul Robinson or give Scott Carson a second successive appearance.

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