The Scots head into the clash in Zagreb bottom of their group and still seeking a first win of the campaign. In contrast, Croatia sit joint top of the section with Belgium and have everything to play for in this encounter. McGhee is realistic enough to know that some of the top nations would be satisfied with a draw against such tough opponents.
He said: "If England or Brazil or anyone went to Croatia in a World Cup game away from home in Zagreb and got a draw, I think they would consider that a positive result. So, yes, we have to think that way."
Asked what a positive result could do for a Scotland side who are already out of the race for Brazil in 2014, McGhee said: "It would be tremendous. Given the players that aren't here, we can look upon it as being a starting point.
"With a fully fit squad, to build upon any performance and any result we get over here, would be a really positive thing going into the summer and to the rest of the campaign."
Gordon Greer failed to travel with the rest of the squad after suffering from tonsillitis, while Scott Brown, James Forrest, Lee Wallace, Danny Fox, Gary Caldwell and Liam Bridcutt had already been forced to withdraw through injury.
Limited resources mean Strachan will have no option but to go with a relatively inexperienced group of players, who will be captained by James Morrison.
McGhee said: "We will try to make sure that they're not naive, that they know fully what is ahead and the difficulty of the match that the opposition will give us. I don't think we would swap experience for inexperience.
"But the fact is that we do have a lot of inexperienced players and what we hope that will bring will be enthusiasm, energy and I think that can be really beneficial.
"We would much rather be here with our most experienced team in such an important World Cup game. But we're not and we have to accentuate the positives and the positives are that young players do bring that enthusiasm and energy."