BARCELONA (AFP) - Joe Cole has warned his England team-mates not to underestimate Croatia for the second tournament in a row as they prepare for a World Cup qualifier in Zagreb on Wednesday.
Cole, who came off the bench to score twice against Andorra on Saturday, hopes his decisive intervention in England's opening qualifier will result in him being promoted to the starting line-up for a match that could really set the tone in the battle for top spot in group six.
England lost 2-0 in Zagreb two years ago in a Euro 2008 qualifying match and went on to miss out on a place in the finals as Croatia topped the group ahead of Russia.
But Chelsea midfielder Cole, who also scored as a substitute against the Czech Republic last month, believes England have learned from their mistakes.
He said: "The last time we went out there we underestimated them a little bit. Looking at their performances they are a top side with great players.
"You need to be solid, tough and compact when you play there -- you need everyone's experience on the pitch because it's going to be a hostile environment."
Cole, who would be happy to take a point from the fixture, believes defeat in Croatia set England's entire qualification campaign back last time when a goalkeeping howler from Paul Robinson added to the sense of doom and saw media criticism hit a peak.
"You need to get off to a good start, we really let ourselves down in Zagreb last time and also by drawing against Macedonia at home," he said. "Once a team gets the bit between their teeth like Croatia did then you're always playing catch-up and you've made life hard for yourself.
"If we can get the right result on Wednesday we can really push on. We will go there to win the game but if we were to draw it then you would still say at this point England are in the driving seat."
Cole is hopeful of forcing his way into the starting line-up after his recent performances as a substitute but knows second-guessing manager Fabio Capello is almost impossible, especially after he was singled out for criticism by the Italian for not listening to instructions on Saturday -- despite his two-goal display.
Cole added: "I think at the start of a new regime no one can be confident of automatically starting. It's good that everybody has to fight for their place and perform well in every game. I'm here to play for England. As for criticism from the manager that is what they are there for, that is what they do.
"The mood is good in this squad. We are moving forward every day. Today we are working on new things and things that we might want to do on Wednesday night. We are not taking our foot off the pedal. We need to keep working. I think the way the team is set up, we are getting stronger. There is more mental toughness in the team now.
"We'll need it because Croatia pass the ball so well. We need to make a good start, get in their faces and really play with passion and desire like England should do and not be naive.
"In the past England teams have thrown men forward and got caught on the counter attack a lot. We are working on that: being resolute, strong and hard to break down."
England are expected to have Rio Ferdinand back after he recovered from a neck injury to train on Monday.
Arsenal winger Theo Walcott played ahead of David Beckham against Andorra but Capello may bring the former captain back for a match in which his experience and ball retention could be useful.
Walcott however was keen to make his case for another start.
"I give England a different aspect to the game, getting in behind defenders," he said. "It was very difficult the other day because they (Andorra) were so deep. On Wednesday it will be a totally different game, more football involved, playing the counter-attack suits my game.
"It will be another big experience for me if I'm involved. I'm just training well, that's all I've got to do. David will do the same. The manager picks the team, you have to ask him. If I train well hopefully I'll be there."
|Vardy fears ´permanent stain against my name´ following casino incident|
|Brave Wilshere will reap rewards of loan move - Howe|
|MLS Review: Sounders surprise Galaxy, Kamara double sinks New England|
|Walcott a special case - Wenger|
|Guardiola striving for more after perfect 10|
|Chelsea risk another mid-table finish, admits Conte|
|Montella feels AC Milan lacked courage|
|Robben speaks out on injury fears|
|Fiorentina 0 AC Milan 0: Ilicic misses penalty on Montella´s return|
|Gisdol replaces Labbadia at Hamburg|
|Ibrahimovic threatened me over Pogba deal - Raiola|
|Balotelli could make Nice return against Krasnodar|
|Southampton deserved to win – Bilic|
|Podolski takes aim at Mourinho over Schweinsteiger treatment|
|Atletico midfielder Augusto suffers ACL injury|
|Sagna: More to Aguero than goals|
|Errors are urgent matter for Schalke - Weinzierl|
|Puel delighted with sublime Southampton second half|
|Simeone praises ´decisive´ Gameiro|
|Noble: West Ham can´t get any worse|
|Pjanic: I will play wherever Allegri needs me|
|West Ham 0 Southampton 3: Defensive woes pile pressure on Bilic|
|Kondogbia makes the same mistakes often – De Boer|
|Gray backed by Dyche after ban for abusive social media posts|
|Gabriel needs time to get used to Serie A - Ausilio|
|Atletico Madrid´s Gimenez and Augusto doubts for Bayern Munich clash|
|Atletico Madrid 1 Deportivo La Coruna 0: Griezmann downs 10-man Depor|
|Angry Spalletti slams Roma players´ attitude|
|Liverpool have unbelievable quality - Milner|
|Simeone´s son Giovanni scores first Serie A goal|
|Ivanovic: Chelsea let Conte down|
|Inter 1 Bologna 1: Battling Bologna end Inter streak|
|Guardiola: Top-four finish very tough for Man City|
|Rodgers expecting tough test against City and Aguero|
|Zamparini admits Balotelli interested Palermo|
|Former Swansea, Arsenal great Mel Charles dies|
|Asamoah, Rugani ruled out for up to seven weeks|
|Totti reaches 250 Serie A goals in Roma defeat|
|Alves makes LaLiga history as Valencia see off Leganes|
|Guardiola rues De Bruyne injury as Man City await scan|
|Las Palmas draw could prove costly, admits Morata|
|Gabriel explains choosing Inter over Juventus|
|Hamburg dismiss Labbadia|
|West Ham players expect Payet´s free-kick magic - Antonio|
|Man City must tell Guardiola to stop, says Toure´s agent|
|Hamsik thrilled to reach 100 Napoli goals|
|Zabaleta warns Man City over Celtic backlash|
|MLS Review: Red Bulls, Toronto into play-offs|
|´We were unlucky´ - Bale|
|Guardiola keen for Spurs test|
|Rodgers: I never fell out with Sterling|
|Wenger hails ´different´ Walcott|
|Mazzarri backs Deeney for England call-up|
|Mamelodi Sundowns and Zamalek reach CAF Champions League final|
|Benzema and Morata can play together - Zidane|
|Hummels plays down injury fears|
|Las Palmas 2 Real Madrid 2: Zidane´s men held again|
|Stones benefited from Moyes´ Everton exit, says Duffy|
|Allegri unconcerned by scrappy win|
|Montella demands Milan improvement|
|Ancelotti praises Thiago after Hamburg victory|
|Conte demands better attitude from Chelsea|
|Wenger hails stylish Arsenal display|
|Moreno the unlikely subject of Klopp´s praise|
|Walcott: We wanted it more than Chelsea|
|Phelan has ´no qualms´ over another handball red card|
|Arsenal 3 Chelsea 0: Sanchez, Walcott and Ozil pile on misery for Conte|
|That was how football should be - Klopp on Hull thrashing|
|Luis Enrique plans to keep Sergi Roberto on his toes|
|Karanka draws hope from Middlesbrough´s second half|
|Stoke is stitched into my body – Pulis|
|Palermo 0 Juventus 1: Own goal helps champions stay top|
|Hughes laments two ´stolen´ points|
|Wilshere can be a brilliant player for Bournemouth, says Howe|
|Defoe rues Sunderland collapse against Palace|
|Tottenham must be more clinical - Pochettino|
|Everton were second best, says Koeman|
|Benteke: I knew a chance was coming|
|Ranieri wants answers from Leicester players after Old Trafford thrashing|
|Board can call me if they want to talk - Guidolin|
|Sterling hails Guardiola´s impact|
|Sergi Roberto revelling in new role|
|Guardiola wants Aguero improvement despite scoring streak|
|Mourinho demands more from star man Pogba|
|Sporting Gijon 0 Barcelona 5: No Messi, no problem for ruthless champions|
|Stoke City 1 West Brom 1: Rondon snatches point as Pulis reaches 1000 games|
|Sunderland 2 Crystal Palace 3: Benteke´s late header stuns Black Cats|
|Swansea City 1 Manchester City 3: Aguero at the double for Guardiola´s perfect 10|
|Bournemouth 1 Everton 0: Stanislas wonder strike ends Koeman´s unbeaten start|
|Liverpool 5 Hull City 1: Coutinho stunner caps easy win|
|Middlesbrough 1 Tottenham 2: Son shines for Spurs|
|Hamburg 0 Bayern Munich 1: Late Kimmich goal maintains Bayern´s perfect start|
|Bayern facing defensive headache after Hummels limps off at Hamburg|
|Pogba and Mata delighted by United response|
|Vardy and Mahrez were rested for Porto, Ranieri admits|
|Mourinho completely trusts dropped Rooney|
|I beat Usain Bolt in a race - Bolasie|
|Juventus still Scudetto favourites - De Boer|
|Manchester United 4 Leicester City 1: Rooney watches on as Pogba inspires Red Devils demolition|
|Robben and Ribery are like Messi, claims Helmer|
|Pochettino hints at Vertonghen renewal|
|Robben´s style makes him an injury risk - Bayern fitness coach|
|Liverpool refuse to comment on Sakho´s social media outburst|
|Rooney dropped for Leicester City clash|
|Messi injury doesn´t matter to Barcelona - Abelardo|
|Thiago Silva worried by PSG form|
|Mourinho describes Wenger relationship as ´civilised´|
|Milito: Inter are no one-man team|
|Bilic delays naming daughter due to West Ham worries|
|Fernandinho hails ´intelligent´ De Bruyne|
|Matuidi: This season toughest for PSG|
|New York City 4 Chicago Fire 1: Villa nets twice in win|
|Pjaca not Morata - Allegri|
|Guardiola keen for Kolarov extension|
|England criticism changed Rooney - Mourinho|
|Gotze detractors don´t surprise Tuchel|
|Wenger laments missing out on Costa|
|Emery deflects blame from PSG players after Toulouse defeat|
|Guidolin: It´s not possible to beat Manchester City if you don´t play well|
|Mourinho prepared to bench Rooney|
|Fitness fears over Aubameyang with Real Madrid looming|