London: England manager Fabio Capello thanked his Croatian counterpart Slaven Bilic for motivating his team for him before their World Cup qualifier at Wembley Stadium.
Bilic said at the weekend that England had lost their "Englishness" and their competitive edge since the Italian became coach last year, adding: "They are definitely missing something that always made English teams difficult to defend against and play against."
Asked what he and his players felt about those comments, an upbeat Capello, shot back: "I just say: 'Thank you Mr Bilic'.
"It is the best thing. I do not need to motivate the players after that. It is fantastic assistance, so I say thank you," Capello told a news conference.
England face Croatia standing top of European Group Six and will clinch their place in next year's World Cup finals in South Africa if they beat Croatia at Wembley.
The last time the teams met there, in November 2007, Croatia beat England 3-2 to deny them a place in the Euro 2008 finals. England have since beaten Croatia 4-1 in Zagreb in this qualifying tournament but Capello said those matches counted for nothing ahead of Wednesday's game.
"It is history, they belong in the archives, although we have improved a lot since we beat Croatia 4-0 in Zagreb."
When reminded that England actually won 4-1, he said: "See, it is history, it doesn't matter, all that matters is what happens tomorrow.
"The squad are training well, they are much more focussed for this game than for the friendly against Slovenia Saturday, and we have no injuries.”
"We have won all seven games and have improved in every game -- even since we beat them in Croatia. We know that we have to win this game to get to South Africa and that is all that matters to us."
Croatia are in second place, four points behind England, having played one match more, after a laboured 1-0 victory over Belarus Saturday.
They will be without their key playmaker Luka Modric, who is injured, and his Tottenham Hotspur team mate Vedran Corluka, who was sent off against Belarus and is suspended.
"Although they are missing those two players, they are still a very good squad and will be very tough to beat. They are very dangerous coming forward," added Capello.
England skipper John Terry said his team were determined to win and qualify for the finals as soon as possible.
"As captain it is very important for me personally and collectively to get to the World Cup finals as quickly as possible. Obviously the disappointment of missing out on the Euros to Croatia still hurts in the back of my everyone's mind. Now it's up to us to finish off this job tomorrow night."
First Published: Tuesday, September 08, 2009, 23:43