Dreams of a Russian World Cup victory are over after they were eliminated in a heartbreaking penalty shootout against Croatia in Sochi but football fans have been full of praise for the hosts, even in defeat.
Nicknamed "the Fiery Ones", that team has stood as an example to their successors ever since.
Another contentious point has come from Daily Telegraph revelations that FIFA has been covering up offensive incidents from Croatian supporters, letting the Croatian Football Federation off with a warning for the display of "political/discriminatory banners" after a match with Nigeria, a disciplinary sanction considered too lenient.
"We know their set-pieces are unsafe, they have scored seven times from them, but we have no reason to be nervous, we are relieved of any pressure and are here to enjoy ourselves", he said.
The coolness displayed by the Real Madrid playmaker in the last-16 tie against the Danes was particularly impressive - having missed a penalty late in extra time, he still stepped up to score another spot-kick only a few minutes later. I asked him and he said he was OK, it did not affect him much.
"But now. I pray and I would give anything in the world that this squad eventually "confines us to history".
"I'll obviously speak to the forwards and tell them what I think", Henderson said. "So we should not be surprised that Croatia are in the semi-finals given the quality of the players".
The country of about four million people has been gripped by football fever with squares packed with red-and-white painted fans, stalls selling football jerseys and flares, drivers blaring their horns and people hugging and singing - scenes reminiscent of 1998.
"We have nice memories from France, our players did a great job. We made ourselves happy, but also everyone back in Croatia happy - I don't cry often, but now I had good cause", the coach told reporters.
Two days before the clash with England he sounded more confident.
France faces Belgium in St. Petersburg Stadium today, and England and Croatia battle it out in Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium tomorrow.
Bilic believes a constant theme in Croatian national sides is they up their game against the historically bigger sides, thus their low key performances against Denmark and Russian Federation, beating both on penalties, should be disregarded. These games will decide the final winners.
"Hopefully we will go a step further than in 1998".