The former Middlesbrough boss claimed his side was looking forward to making amends at the first possible opportunity.
"After a disappointing result and performance we're looking for an English performance, one of pride and character," McClaren said.
"It's a big test for the team.
"Every game defines your England career whether you're a player, manager or coach. I'm excited, everybody knows it's going to be a big game."
While confident of his side’s performance he declared that a "proud" Croatia would not be easy beats.
"England can beat anybody on the day, and that's what we'll be going out to do tomorrow. But first of all I want a performance," he remarked.
"But we've come here to win.
"I think they're (Croatia) a very young team, they've got great pride in their country and 12 years is some record.
"But they know it's going to be a hard game as well."
Croatia will be roared on by a capacity crowd of 40,000 who were buoyed by their side’s 7-0 hammering of Andorra on Saturday.
The passionate Croatian crowd has also been the centre of claims of racist abuse, but the England boss was keen for his players to keep their minds on the job.
"A lot of the players have experienced this kind of atmosphere. But we know what we have to do," added McClaren.
"We're not worried. Our only concern is the game. It's important to stay top (of the group), get a result and a performance.
"We're not even contemplating coming here and getting beat."