Defoe said: "A draw would be a great result in Croatia.
"We have to be strong and believe we are going to win because it is a massive game. But the most important thing is to get a result."
Slaven Bilic's side have never lost a competitive fixture at the Maksimir Stadium since 1994 and they completed the double over England to dump them out of the race for Euro 2008.
Defoe, 25, added: "We owe Croatia one. Our two results against them cost us in the end.
"They were both huge disappointments and it does not matter what sport you play, if you lose to someone, you want to beat them next time round.
"We will be ready this time. I do not want to feel like that again. It was a horrible experience.
"We know Croatia are excellent at home. We know they are a good side with good players.
"But man for man, I honestly believe we are better. It is down to us to show those qualities."