Croatia 2 England 0
by Matt Barlow in Zagreb
Steve McClaren's tactical gamble backfired in spectacular fashion as England were beaten by Croatia.
England looked uneasy in their new 3-5-2 formation - but the goal which killed their hopes had nothing to do with tactics.
It was an own goal from Gary Neville, 22 minutes from time, a back-pass which hit a bobble on the pitch and fooled Paul Robinson.
The England goalkeeper attempted a clearance but the ball jumped over his foot and into the net, giving Slaven Bilic's team a two-goal advantage they never looked likely to lose.
Croatia's proud record of never losing a qualifying game at home did not come under threat from the Three Lions.
Neville's own goal was comical but England fans were not laughing after their team emerged with just one point to show from their latest two qualifiers.
Eduardo da Silva had headed Croatia's first goal after 61 minutes and the home team were well worth their lead. They had dominated the game from the start and England had Robinson to thank for taking them into the half-time break on level terms.
McClaren reverted to a more familiar 4-4-2 system later on but, by then, it was too late and Group E is now wide open. Croatia are top on goal difference with seven points - the same as Israel, Macedonia and England.
Russia, who beat Estonia, moved to within two points of the top.
A qualification group which looked straightforward suddenly looks very tricky indeed.
England's next Group E fixture is in March, away to Israel, who entertain Croatia next month.
The manager insisted he was not taking a gamble but England's defence, rock solid for six games, looked distinctly uncomfortable from the kick-off.
A string of chances were wasted by Bilic's team inside the first half hour as McClaren's back-three traded confused glances.
Rio Ferdinand collected an early booking, dragging Mladen Petric to the floor after the striker had given him the slip.
Robinson was in action in the sixth minute, when Brazilian-born striker Da Silva drifted between Jamie Carragher and John Terry.
The England goalkeeper denied Da Silva and then produced an excellent save from Niko Kranjcar, in the 26th minute.
Left-winger Kranjcar should have scored when Milan Rapaic found him unmarked with a cross from Croatia's right but, luckily for England, the new Portsmouth signing placed his volley too close to Robinson.
Rapaic feasted on the space behind Ashley Cole as the home side enjoyed a purple patch before the break.
Ferdinand blocked another effort from Kranjcar, five minutes later and Robinson flew to his left to turn yet another effort wide from the dangerous Portsmouth player.
England, who offered very little adventure in the first half, found a way through the Croatian defence with the simplest of moves in the 54th minute.
Peter Crouch flicked a long ball towards Wayne Rooney, who muscled past his marker but could not keep his shot down.
That moment of encouragement for England was soon eclipsed by Da Silva's goal.
Niko Kovac picked up the ball on the Croatia left and swung a deep cross into the penalty area where Da Silva planted a looping header over Robinson.
The England keeper was picking the ball out of the net again seven minutes later, when Neville's backpass bobbled over his foot and rolled over the line.
>> McClaren shoulders blame - click here.