Belgium lie in wait this Saturday in St Petersburg after Croatia inflicted a crushing defeat.
While going to 30 minutes of extra time in all three of their sudden-death matches - not to mention emotional energy-sapping penalty shootouts in two - has proved beyond doubt Croatia's resilience, it has taken its toll.
Before booking a place in the finals, the Balkan nation stunned 2014 World Cup finalists Argentina, Nigeria and Iceland in the group stages before putting up impressive performances in the knockout stages.
"Two years ago it was tough", said one of the returnees, goalkeeper Hugo Lloris. There's no question about that. "But we have our hearts, our pride and our players and that is what is really important to us". "We'll look at the goals and chances but I don't think we could have given more over these six or seven weeks".
"But that will be the challenge". "I mean, we are proud already because no one thought we would make it this far".
'This was a fast and slick and young England side but we had experience they could not match, ' he added.More news: Armless transient man stabs tourist with scissors on South Beach
Southgate and his players are sure to be greeted as heroes when they return from Russian Federation, but underlying frustration will linger after missing their shot at glory. I don't want it to happen again. "Something I been waiting for a long time", Francisco Rafael Beserra Sousa wrote. And we've proved that is possible. "Impossible not to fall in love with this wonderful country". It will be a different sort of scenario. They just kept coming towards me and they fell on me.
Pitana is one of South America's most experienced referees and also has playing experience at youth level.
"We were like lions out there tonight and we will be the same in the final", he said. But we are going to discuss France tomorrow. But we've won a lot of matches that historically England haven't won.
The Spurs defender was mobbed by teammates and the thousands of England fans in attendance at the Luzhniki Stadium erupted.
Pitana returned to Brazil in 2016 for the Olympic Football Tournament, where he was the man in the middle for the semi-final between Germany and Nigeria. "I have always wanted to be a football player of the Croatian national team like Eduardo da Silva, unfortunately, I could not fulfill that dream, now my biggest dream is to be the coach of the Croatian national team!"