Croatia defender Domagoj Vida faced possible disciplinary sanctions from Federation Internationale de Football Association after posting a clip dedicating his country's victory over Russia in the World Cup quarter-final to Ukraine.
They have endured the emotional tugs of two penalty shootouts, somehow coming out on top on both occasions, the first team since 1990 to do so at a World Cup.
Croatia captain Luka Modric said his side showed character on Saturday to get through "another drama" after edging to a second straight shootout win to knock out Russian Federation and set up a World Cup semi-final with England.
It was arguably France's most impressive display at the World Cup.
Vida, who scored in the match against Russia - which ended 2-2 after extra time - and netted in the resulting penalty shootout, later said of his comment in quotes reported by Russian outlet Championat: "I respect the Russian nation".
England also required spot-kicks to get past Colombia before they made comfortable work of Sweden in the quarter-finals as Harry Maguire and Dele Alli scored in a a 2-0 triumph.
How they got there Croatia after winning Group D with a 100 per cent record have had to grit their way through the knockout stages with penalty shoot-out wins over Denmark and hosts Russian Federation.
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But the 29-year-old Besiktas defender could be in hot water with Federation Internationale de Football Association after a video emerged of the player using a slogan of anti-Russian Ukrainian nationalists in the aftermath of his team's victory over Russia.
"In the second half and in extra time we dominated, 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", he added. "Until we have evaluated all information available, we can not comment further".
Russian Federation was the lowest-ranked team going into the tournament and its advance into the quarterfinals surprised many.
The pope, an Argentine and an avid soccer fan, noted a preponderance of Brazilian flags on display in St. Peter's Square during his traditional Sunday blessing. "There'll be a next time".
Francis often meets with visiting national soccer teams, has a collection of gifted jerseys and frequently promotes the value of sports particularly for young people.