Croatia boss Slaven Bilic insists he was complimenting Fabio Capello's team when he suggested they lost their "Englishness" under the Italian.
England's coach has overseen seven consecutive World Cup qualifying victories, and another tonight against Croatia will seal a place in South Africa.
Bilic has seen vast improvement since his last trip to Wembley, when he masterminded the victory that denied England a place at Euro 2008 and got Steve McClaren the sack.
"With those words, I praised Capello and the English team," said former West Ham defender Bilic.
"I didn't say anything negative.
"I said, in a positive way, that Mr Capello is one of the best managers in the world; they are more organised, more solid; they control games almost completely, and they don't leave opponents five yards of space. They are playing differently now.
"They should be better at a World Cup - if they qualify, of course. They will still have six months to train together and will be together for three or four weeks, so they will be better and better."
There are plenty of sub-plots to the clash at Wembley, including the jeers Eduardo is expected to receive from fans following the diving row that erupted two weeks ago.
Arsenal striker Eduardo received a two-match ban from UEFA "for deceiving the referee" during the Champions League match against Celtic - and the 26-year-old has already felt the backlash when he came off the bench for his club against Manchester United just before the international break.
With Luka Modric out because of a broken leg, the onus will be on Eduardo to provide the creative spark against England.
"Eduardo is a complete man and a complete person," said Bilic.
"He's great as a player, great as a person, great as a father.
"I can say that because I've known him since he was 17 - so I know. It can only motivate you more. He knows that he is 100%, horizontally, vertically, diagonally, 100% honest."
Modric is not the only player missing for Bilic, Vedran Corluka suspended and Stipe Pletikosa also injured. The latest player to pull out is Genoa midfielder Ivan Juric.
Bilic has been through DVDs of the Wembley game two years ago and England's 4-1 win last season in Zagreb when Theo Walcott's hat-trick proved the difference.
"Of course, the best way to show my players what we did well and what we did wrong was to show them some actions from the game at Wembley and some from the game of Zagreb," he explained.Reuse content