For England, it was the chance to return to the final for the first time since its legendary 1966 victory; for Croatia, it was a chance at its first World Cup final ever. At one point you can even see Croatia defender Domagoj Vida pull one of the piled-on photographers up and kiss his forehead while goal-scorer Mandzukic pats him on the back.
In Gareth Southgate, England have a manager who has brought new vigor to the national team setup, and who has managed to transform a side who crashed out to minnows Iceland at Euro 2016 into World Cup semifinalists. Following a clinical 1-0 win over Belgium in Tuesday's semi-final, Didier Deschamps' men have played a staggering 90 fewer minutes than their opponents in the knockout rounds.
"I think this was our best game".
"The players and the squad, everybody involved in the World Cup, have a reason to come back home with pride after giving everything and making the country proud".
However, they have taken a gruelling route to the final and the French will be warm favourites.
"We have shown that we can win knock-out games and get to semi-finals, so now we have to try and go one step further". There will be legitimate questions about how much they have left in the tank. Midfielder Perisic was outstanding in the second half and caused England no end of problems.
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World Cup Daily: Croatia's dream goes on while England wake up.
Mario Mandzukic of Croatia scores the winning goal against England in Moscow.
Trippier's curling fifth-minute free-kick was his first worldwide goal, a prominent example of the quality of his delivery that has given rise to the "Bury Beckham" moniker because he was born in Bury near Manchester.
"English journalists, pundits from television, they underestimated Croatia and that was a huge mistake", Real Madrid's Modric told ITV. Lingard failed to connect with a Kane through ball in 78th, Kane miss-hit a header off a free kick in stoppage time, and Stones' header from a corner was cleared off the line by Vrsaljko in the 99th.
Vrsaljko, who plays for Atletico Madrid, had struggled to be ready for the match after playing in two previous extra-time matches, but he found the strength to lift his exhausted, battered team to a comeback win.
The players applauded and thanked the travelling supporters in Moscow after the match but the fans didn't stop making noise there.