Croatia also was dealing with serious injury concerns entering a World Cup semifinal against a fully fit England side.
The physically and emotionally drained Three Lions will travel to St Petersburg for the match following their semi-final defeat, which saw Croatia score in extra-time to win 2-1. This despite having a number of players carrying injuries.
Around 26 million people were believed to have watched the match on TV in Britain. But Ivan Perisic's equaliser in the second half, followed by Mario Mandzukic's victor in extra time sent the Three Lions crashing out.It wasn't just the football players on the field that were left heartbroken.
"This is something indescribable", said Perišić in the aftermath.
"I'm anxious, but I've got my fingers crossed", said 27-year-old Charlie Conroy as the clock ticked away. We are in the final of a World Cup.
However, it was England who looked the more exhausted for large swathes of the game from the second-half onwards, as Croatia finally made count their dominance of the ball.
"Again there was drama, it couldn't have been otherwise". We have no doubts, we play together, that's our strength.
"And that is a real feature of this generation of players".
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"Against Portugal we thought we had won it before the start of the game".
England lost much of their first-half momentum after the break.
However, the biggest concern looking ahead to Sunday´s game is bound to be fatigue, with Croatia having also required extra time and penalties to come through ties against Denmark and hosts Russian Federation in the past two weeks.
"We played better than we did against Argentina". The players accepted the criticism they received, they took it on board and improved.
Prior to the match against England, Croatia's coach Zlatko Dalic commented, "we do not fear anyone, not even England". Now, a new generation, inspired by captain Luka Modric, has created its own history. It will be their third final in 20 years. That was just extra motivation for us.
"But this is a totally different story".
"For us, we are not the favourites". "It was so painful two years ago we have to savor it".
"When Deschamps took off (Olivier) Giroud to bring on (Steven) Nzonzi, then Pogba had more freedom but freedom not to do silly things. Our dream is so close now", Perišić declares.