They scored an hour in, and finally netted the winning second goal in extra time. It's a young team, the majority of the players will play in the next World Cup with more experience at club level.
For England, there is no need to look back in anger.
But Croatia came out for the second-half on top of the Three Lions, and equalised with a goal from the outstanding Ivan Perisic.
Kieran Trippier's maiden worldwide goal fired England ahead early in Moscow, but Ivan Perisic levelled in the second half before Mandzukic sent Croatia through to a showdown against France on Sunday.
The players applauded and thanked the travelling supporters in Moscow after the match but the fans didn't stop making noise there. "They should be more humble and respect more opponents".
"As I know, when you work overseas, you feel your country in a different way". It's been a fantastic journey. I'm sure we will look back at stuff we could have done better, but it hurts. "It was a fantastic journey, we got further than anyone thought we could, we've just got to learn from it".
"I think in the first half, we were really good and we maybe could've got another and in periods throughout the game we had chances". But we've fallen just a bit short.
The win sent tens of thousands of French people pouring onto the Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris in scenes of joy last seen when France won the World Cup two decades ago.
Telesport's Juraj Vrdoljak compared Croatia's second-half comeback to an "adrenaline-driven man lifting a truck to save his child". There will be legitimate questions about how much they have left in the tank.
France coach Didier Deschamps said he was delighted to have the chance to bury the pain of the Euro 2016 final, which his side lost on home soil to Portugal.
Mario Mandzukic's strike in extra-time sealed it as Croatia played an additional 30 minutes for the third time in a row.
England boss Gareth Southgate - on the day that was dubbed Waistcoat Wednesday in his honour back home - named an unchanged side to face Croatia, while Zlatko Dalić surprisingly made just one change from the side that beat Russian Federation on penalties in the quarter-final, bringing in midfield Marcelo Brozović for striker Andrej Kramarić.
Hazard shone at times but Kevin De Bruyne was quiet and Manchester United striker Lukaku was a shadow of the player he had been earlier in the tournament, even though Belgium enjoyed most of the possession.