ENGLAND captain John Terry has backed Wayne Rooney to make Croatia's wind-up merchants eat their words by firing Fabio Capello's team to the World Cup.
Rooney has scored eight goals in seven World Cup qualifiers to lead England to the brink of next year's finals in South Africa.
A victory today would seal the deal for England, but Croatia are still in the hunt for second place and are plotting a repeat of their famous November 2007 win at Wembley.
Croatia boss Slaven Bilic believes the key to success against Capello's side is to mark Rooney closely because the Manchester United star plays such a "wild" game he is liable to explode at any moment.
But Chelsea defender Terry is confident that Rooney is now mature enough to walk away from any confrontations and instead concentrate on doing his damage in front of goal.
"It's very important we don't get sucked into anything in individual battles," Terry said yesterday. "We have to got to win our battles but at the same time we have to walk away and be mature about things and don't get sucked into the things they are trying to suck us into in the papers.
"Wayne is in great form at the moment. He's scoring a lot of goals as well as giving a lot to the team.
"He becomes more important as each game comes. He is so young but plays with so much experience.
"He is one of those players who is literally a nightmare to play against."
Capello has seen few signs of Rooney's fiery temper on international duty and is confident the striker will keep cool under any provocation.
"Rooney, with me, I remember only once when he did a bad tackle. Only once," Capello said.
Terry has often delivered passionate speeches to his teammates in the final moments before England and Chelsea matches, but he revealed there will be no special words in the dressing room today.
"The manager does his thing before the game and all the lads will say their piece. There will be no big speech from me.
"Everyone knows what we have to do," Terry added. - Sapa-AFP