Croatia's run to the World Cup semi-finals may be a surprise to some, but coach Zlatko Dalic said his players had long been among the best in the world and are ready to go down in history as another golden generation when they face England this evening.
Croatia's best previous World Cup run dates back 20 years to 1998, when they lost in the last four to eventual winners France. In 2002, 2006 and 2014 they were eliminated in the group stages, and they failed to qualify for the 2010 tournament.
"Croatia has great players playing at the greatest clubs, but it is true we have not had good results at major tournament for decades," the coach said.
His players' club list reads like a who's-who of European elite players, with Luka Modric and Mateo Kovacic at Real Madrid, Ivan Rakitic at Spanish rivals Barcelona, forward Mario Mandzukic at Italian champions Juventus, and Dejan Lovren at Liverpool among others.
"The results were below the level and quality of our players. Something had to change to get the results," Dalic said.
"So we should not be surprised that Croatia are in the semi-finals given the quality of the players."
"This generation has been underrated for a long time because of their poor results, but they have shown their quality when it mattered at this World Cup, and it will go down as a golden generation like that of 1998."
Dalic will have to wait and see if defender Sime Vrsaljko, who played in four of their five games, will be fit for the match after picking up a knee injury.
"He has this niggle. We want those who are 100 percent match fit. I cannot tell you (if he will play this evening)," Dalic said.