"You would never have said, "He is going to be an global player", you would never have said, "He's going to be a Tottenham first-team player", but to his credit, he worked tirelessly at every aspect of his game".
But as in the previous match against Denmark - which Croatia also won on penalties after an insipid 1-1 draw - all too often his team mates failed to do anything with them. Federation Internationale de Football Association outlaws political statements and said it had issued the Besiktas centre-back with just a warning after the video was published online. Before they didn't have any pressure.
The 32-year-old has been outstanding in his team's run to a semi-final against England in Moscow on Wednesday, picking up the man-of-the-match award in three of Croatia's five matches. [The media] just said to them: "Just do what you can", but now even you are hoping that it can come home, yeah? "I'm grateful to the players... thanks to all the fans for their support, it's thanks to them that we managed to get so far", he added.
"If you're asking me a question in a one-off final can we do it?"
"But we are looking forward to a different style of game against England because they like to play attacking football".
"We expect a very tough and demanding match, like every one in the World Cup".
"We trusted ourselves. We could only prove our worth by working hard". Liverpool eventually finished fourth, two points behind Spurs and went all the way to the Champions League final where they lost to Real Madrid. "The whole country is celebrating and all the team is very proud".
Remembering exactly where he came from, Mario Mandzukic reportedly paid for the beers for fans watching the tense World Cup quarter final between Croatia and Russian Federation in his hometown.
He replied: "We are not. Hopefully it will be us".
Eleven years later the Barcelona midfielder is one step closer to the World Cup final and some hours away from the most important game of his career.