England coach Fabio Capello isn't taking any comfort from the difficulty Croatia had in winning its European Championship opener against co-host Austria.
Capello watched Croatia, one of England's opponents when European qualifying for the 2010 World Cup begins in September, outshine Austria in the first half of Sunday's match in Vienna before it labored in the second against a team at No. 92 in FIFA's rankings.
Croatia eventually prevailed 1-0 through Luka Modric's fourth-minute penalty, but Capello said Monday that the spirit it showed to hold out against an opponent spurred on by a noisy crowd suggested his England team will find things just as tough as the one that lost home and away to Croatia to lose out on a place at Euro 2008.
"Croatia is a good team with good organization, a strong group," Capello said. "I saw yesterday that they suffered the last half an hour, but it's very important, the spirit of this team. It will be no easy game."
England and Croatia are in a six-team qualifying group along with Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Andorra for the 2010 tournament in South Africa, but only the top team advances automatically. Second place would clinch, at best, a playoff for a tournament berth against another runner-up.
"We have to beat Croatia," Capello said.
England beat Croatia 4-2 at the 2004 European Championship but lost in Zagreb 2-0 and at Wembley 3-2 on its way to finishing third in its qualifying group. The failure cost Steve McClaren his job as coach and led to Capello's appointment.
One of Capello's first decisions was to try out several players as captain to find out which can offer the leadership the team needs on the field. David Beckham, Steven Gerrard, Rio Ferdinand and John Terry have all led the side so far, with Manchester United defender Ferdinand and McClaren's choice Terry the front-runners to get the position full-time.
The Italian coach said it wasn't too important to him which player filled the role, so long as it wasn't a goalkeeper.
"I prefer one player near to the referee, so if it's possible they can speak," Capello said. "That's important for me."
With England's players taking the summer off following their failure to qualify for Euro 2008, Capello said that when qualifying starts he will continue the selection policy he has followed so far.
Like Sven-Goran Eriksson when he took over in 2001, Capello has given a chance to players from less heralded clubs. But Eriksson soon settled on a preferred squad of players, most of them Champions League regulars, and drew criticism for his reluctance to drop stars when they underperformed.
Capello said his main criterion for judging a player was whether he was first choice for his club, whoever that is.
"It's very important to see them every week," Capello said. "If they play regularly, it's better for us. If they play every game, I think they're very fit and OK for us and the team."
Capello said one player who will definitely remain under consideration was West Ham striker Dean Ashton, even though he performed listlessly on his debut against Trinidad and Tobago last month.
"He will be with us for the next games, depending on if he's fit," Capello said. "I don't understand the criticism against Ashton. The English shirt always puts a lot of pressure on you, but he's a good player."