TEL AVIV, Nov 17 (Reuters) - Russia coach Guus Hiddink has backed Croatia to beat England at Wembley on Wednesday and put Euro 2008 qualification back in his side's grasp.
A 2-1 defeat to Israel in Tel Aviv on Saturday has left Russia needing to win their final match away to Andorra while hoping second-placed England lose against already-qualified Group E leaders Croatia.
'I expect them to win,' Hiddink said of Croatia, who went down to a 2-0 defeat against Macedonia on Saturday, their first reverse of the campaign.
'If you saw Israel tonight, fighting, fighting, fighting, it's an honour to your sport. So I expect them also to show their commitment and their quality.
'If you dare to play there at Wembley, you can win.'
Dutchman Hiddink brought his rebuilt side to Israel buoyant that last month's 2-1 defeat of England in Moscow had put them in the driving seat while England were forced to sit out Saturday's fixtures and hope for outside help.
But after a gutsy Israeli display and some uninspired finishing from the visitors, a disappointed Hiddink insisted the process of reviving a long under-achieving Russian side was well under way.
'We must get a little bit more streetwise. If we are little bit more streetwise and do not give away presents, this team can go a long way,' he said. 'We are all very very disappointed at this moment but I think the future is there in the national team.'
'We outplayed them in the second half and were sloppy in not capitalising on our opportunities,' Hiddink said, ruing the Dmitry Sychev shot that hit the post in the dying minutes before Omer Golan won it for Israel in injury time.
'We were a little bit sloppy in the final pass... We were very, very disappointed.'
Israel coach Dror Kashtan shrugged off the role as England coach Steve McClaren's saviour. He said: 'If someone wants to say 'Well done', we'll accept that. But we've never been concerned with what the English might need or what the Russians might want.
'We wanted to show positive football and we succeeded.'