According to the New York Times, it wasn't an easy win for Croatia, which had some difficulty keeping up with England's "younger and faster" legs in the first half, but "went the extra mile" as it won its third straight game in extra time.
"We deserved the victory", said match-winner Mandzukic. His free-kick was curled perfectly into the net from 25m out, leaving Danijel Subasic comprehensively beaten. They should have turned up, it's the semi-final of a World Cup.
England's chances of advancing still seemed decent enough as long as the score remained deadlocked.
Croatia emerged for the second half stronger and equalised on 68 minutes when Ivan Perisic got ahead of Kyle Walker to flick home a finish on the volley.
After a nervous opening quarter from Croatia, their first serious attempt on goal came in the 18th minute when Ivan Perisic cut inside from the left and fired from outside the box only for it to go just wide.
Waddle said England had been undone by Croatia's experience.
The Three Lions suffered an extra-time 2-1 defeat at the hands of Croatia in Moscow, after a roller-coaster game which saw England take an early lead through Kieran Trippier, only for a second-half equaliser from Ivan Perisic to take the game to extra time and set up Mario Mandzukic's late victor.
On ITV following the game, Croatia captain Luka Modric had some choice words for the English media, saying that they should be "more humble and respect their opponents more". It's going to hurt for a while of course.
Following the match, Prince William tweeted: "I know how disappointed @england must feel right now but I couldn't be more proud of this team and you should hold your heads high". We are probably beyond where we thought we might be able to go.More news: Trump’s SCOTUS pick, Brett Kavanaugh, is very bad for net neutrality
Just three minutes had gone when England won a free-kick in a unsafe position nearly 25 yards from goal.
"The first thing to say is this team has taken us to a place we never imagined we could get", said Neville.
"The more of these tests we can come through, the better, not just for now, but moving forward".
With the bonus of an extra day's rest and Croatia having been taken to extra-time for the third time in succession, France will be far the fresher of the two sides in Sunday's final.
In delirious scenes in Paris, fans let off fire crackers and released smoke flares.
But each team has more than just historical precedent to play for. A separate video led to a Croatian coach being sent home.
"We were motivated and what I told these players before the game was "there's no pressure, no nerves, don't lose your head - you've reached the semi-final, be proud and enjoy your football".
It was a painful defeat for Belgium, foiled at the semi-final for the second time in their history, as the clock ticks on their so-called "golden generation" of players.