James Milner has slammed suggestions Croatian players have been deliberately targeted for rough-house treatment in the Barclays Premier League.
The build-up to next Wednesday's World Cup qualifier at Wembley, when England know victory will confirm their place at next summer's finals in South Africa, has been soured by accusations from Croatian FA president Vlatko Markovic.
"Obviously it is nonsense," said Milner. "You don't look at who you are tackling or anything like that when you are on the field. You don't think 'oh it's him, I will go in hard'. You are just trying to win the ball."
In the wake of a broken leg suffered by Luka Modric at White Hart Lane on Saturday, Markovic made the astonishing claim that Croatia's star midfielder had been deliberately injured by Lee Bowyer. He also referred to the incident involving Eduardo at Birmingham in February 2007 that ruled the striker out for over a year.
Yet Milner dismissed the claims as "nonsense", insisting he would prefer England to play a full strength Croatian side as they look to avenge the defeat in November two years ago that cost them their place at Euro 2008.
The Aston Villa midfielder added: "What has happened with Modric is unfortunate. He is a top player and Spurs will miss him massively.
"But you want to play in the best competitions in the world against the best players. It helps you if the best players aren't there but also you want to challenge them. That is what being a professional in any sport is all about."
For Milner the immediate plan is building on an impressive 20-minute senior debut in Holland last month by making another substitute appearance in Saturday's friendly with Slovenia. He may be a senior international now, but Milner knows the hard work still lies ahead.
"When you are growing up as a kid, kicking a ball against the garage at nine or 10 you are dreaming of scoring for England in a World Cup final," he said. "You work so hard every day to get to the top but hopefully this is just the start of a chapter.
"I have not reached my goal. I have played for 20 minutes and I have got one cap. That is great. Now I have to prove I should be in every squad and that I should be in the team. You don't stop. You strive for more."
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