England started the day in second place in Group E on 23 points. They were three points behind leaders Croatia, who had already booked their place in the tournament, and two points ahead of third-place Russia, who were facing last-place Andorra.
England had lost to Croatia 2-0 in Zagreb, but were hoping for a better result at home, despite missing several key players, including forward Wayne Rooney and all four players from their preferred back line. The available personnel forced McLaren to change the formation from a 4-4-2 to a 4-1-4-1, with Peter Crouch playing as the lone striker.
England's hopes took a blow in the 8th minute, as Croatian midfielder Niko Kranjčar found the back of the net with a 25-yard shot that was helped past keeper Scott Carson by a tricky bounce off the wet pitch. Ivica Olić doubled the visitors' lead in the 14th minute as a precision pass by forward Eduardo da Silva beat the English defense and allowed Olić to walk the ball into an open goal.
England entered the second half to a chorus of boos and jeers from the home fans, but soon gave them something to cheer when Jermain Defoe won a penalty which Frank Lampard converted in the 56th minute. Peter Crouch equalized nine minutes later with a goal from a David Beckham pass.
As it turned out, a draw would have been enough to see England through on goal differential, but it did not last. Croatian substitute forward Mladen Petrić (pictured), who had replaced Eduardo in the 69th minute, beat Carson with a 25-yard stunner in the 77th minute. England were unable to find another equalizer and conceded all three points to Croatia.
Russia, as expected, beat Andorra and moved into second place in the group, dropping England into third and out of the tournament. The FA terminated McClaren's contract the next day after only 18 matches in 16 months, making his time in charge of the national team the shortest of any England manager.