Prior to the round of 16 games in the 2018 tournament, teams going first in a World Cup penalty shootout had won 60 per cent of matches.
Despite the pre-World Cup barbs and snipes regarding Russia's quality and the politically-charged commentary related to the hosts, they bowed out in style, having exceeded expectations and injected the tournament with a healthy dose of enthusiasm.
Croatia came from behind in Sochi with Andrej Kramaric cancelling out Denis Cheryshev's opener as the tie ended 1-1 after 90 minutes.
Nicknamed "Vatreni", that team has stood as an example to their successors ever since.
They will take on Belgium in the eagerly anticipated semi-finals.
"We'd been spending a lot of time on set pieces, right down to the details, all the runs and the blocks", said midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek.
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Mandzukic said the team would not be exhausted after being forced into extra time and penalties by Denmark and Russian Federation in the past two games, and would be doing everything to eclipse the Croatian team from 1998 which lost in the last four against hosts France. Messi looked a shadow of the player that has won five Ballon d'Or awards, scoring just once in four matches.
"We should have finished the job before penalties, but maybe it's written in the stars that we have to go through the extra drama", said Luka Modric, whose penalty bounced off Subasic's hand and the post before entering the other side of the net.
"We worked so hard and gave everything we had to get through to the semis".
Croatia, too, have a feeling destiny might be with them as momentum gathers.
By defeating Uruguay, Brazil, Russia and Sweden respectively in their quarter-final showdowns - the teams from France, Belgium, Croatia and England have earned a well-deserved place in the semi-finals of the biggest football event.
"We've been always returning to the 1998 team.... putting a new burden on Modrić and his team".
Croatia ends Russia’s run, advances to World Cup semifinals
That suggests it has had difficulty putting away its opponents, but it also means it is excelling during the biggest moments. After making the semi-final in 1998 in France the Croatians return to the last four, this time to face England.
"But for us, it's all about the experience".
Two days before the clash with England, he sounded more confident. "We don't fear England". "But none of the three squads is better than us!"
In the build-up to the quarter-final, Southgate had spoken about the chance to write history.
Former worldwide Mario Stanić remembers perfectly the defeat to eventual winners France in the 1998 semifinal, although he would rather not. But we have top center-backs.
"To beat them, we'll have to make our own luck ... we'll have to be ready to suffer".
Back in England, the national team - vilified after the debacle at Euro 2016 - is once more a source of pride.
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"We know them well".