Despite that, Modric's three man-of-the-match performances and two winning penalties from Rakitic in shootout wins over Denmark and Russian Federation have seen them match Croatia's best-ever World Cup performance 20 years ago in France.
But a second half header from Ivan Perisic sent the tie to extra time - just as England's previous World Cup semi-final appearance did in 1990 - only for Mandzukic to strike in the first half to end England's dreams of a final appearance.
They're young, they're brash and they're collectively worth a billion dollars.
They have won nine Champions Leagues between them, compared to England's one, and 11 of the 23-man squad have 40 caps or more.
England's run to the World Cup semi-finals has prompted widespread praise but amid the euphoria midfielder Dele Alli can still be self-critical. "I was in the right positions, so when it's like that you have to make sure you are doing the basics right", added the 22-year-old.
"It won't be easy, but to get into the semifinals it's a new motive for us", Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic told the AP.
N'Golo Kante spoke of his "immense joy" and "pride" at the feat and promised to give everything in the Moscow final. "We must take advantage of it now".
"When Gareth came in it was the first time we relived it". As long as I can help the team, it's all that matters to me. We don't realise the support we're receiving like we did at the European Championships. We worked hard defensively.
Finally, Antoine Griezmann told TF1 of the luck that Adil Rami's moustache has brought France in Russian Federation and his desire to bring the World Cup back to France.
"I do not care about the Ballon d'Or, I want the World Cup". "The boys - and their manager - are a credit to the shirt and the country, I'm extremely proud of them". It is in the knockout rounds that I hit my stride, though, and I hope to continue like this.
Denise, English star Dele Alli's estranged mother, has rued her inability to watch her son play at the 2018 World Cup in Russian Federation.