The Vatreni were one of just three sides to claim maximum points from the group phase, while their opponents did just about enough to scrape through in Group C.
Despite facing disruption late in their qualifying campaign, with manager Zlatko Dalic appointed just three days before a crucial match against Ukraine, Croatia went on to book their place in Russia via the playoffs and have not looked back.
Controversy surrounding the nation's football federation did not help with preparations, setting the Vatreni up for what looked to be an inevitable fall, yet wins over Nigeria, Argentina and Iceland saw them finish top of Group D with a perfect record.
All of a sudden the Croats have a spring in their step, with their winning run spanning to four matches when accounting for their 2-1 friendly victory over fellow finalists Senegal shortly before the tournament got started.
All three group matches gave Croatia a chance to show a different side to their game, as they eased past a disappointing Nigeria side 2-0 in their opener, stunned Argentina with a 3-0 win in their second game and then battled to a 2-1 triumph over Iceland in their third.
The second-half showing against Argentina caught the attention of many neutrals; their talented midfield lived up to the hype given to them before a ball was kicked, affording Dalic the chance to heavily rotate for their final group outing.
That Croatia still picked up all three points against an Iceland side still in contention to qualify at the time says plenty about their depth, but Dalic is almost certain to make nine changes against Denmark to revert back to the side that took apart the Argies.
The Vatreni are now dreaming of replicating their success from two decades ago when recording their best-ever finish at the World Cup, but their 3-0 win over Germany in the quarter-finals of France '98 remains their last knockout-stage win at a major tournament.
Better news for Croatia is that they have won five of their previous six encounters against fellow European sides on the global stage - the only loss coming to France in the semis 20 years ago - and now the current generation have a chance to join their heroes of yesteryear in making their mark in the biggest competition of them all.
World Cup form: WWW
Recent form (including friendlies): WLWWWW
Croatia are not alone in wanting to replicate the achievements of past generations, with Denmark's class of '92 setting the benchmark by pulling off a huge upset in winning the European Championship.
The Scandinavians will see this as good a chance as any to match their World Cup quarter-final appearance from two decades ago, having been given a favourable last-16 tie against a side that they are ranked eight places higher than in the FIFA rankings.
While Croatia have lost just one of their last 11 matches, Denmark can boast an 18-game unbeaten run stretching back to a 1-0 loss against Montenegro in October 2016, helping to justify their place in the knockout round of this entertaining World Cup.
Entertainment was not exactly present in Denmark's meeting with France to conclude Group C, however, as the two nations played out the only pre-last-16 goalless draw, knowing that the point would suit them both just fine.
In fairness to Age Hareide's charges, though, they had already seen off Peru 1-0 in their opener - Yussuf Poulsen converting a Christian Eriksen through-ball - before grinding out a 1-1 draw with Australia in their second outing.
Two goals scored in their last three matches does not make for great reading, but at the opposite end just one goal has been conceded in their last seven matches since qualifying - that coming through a Mile Jedinak penalty.
Defence has outweighed attack in modern World Cups when it comes to the knockout rounds, so Kasper Schmeichel's 12 saves from 13 shots on target in the group phase, contributing to the incredible defensive record, stands the Danes in good stead.
If their four previous knockout-round matches at the World Cup are anything to go by, however, goals can be expected in Nizhny Novgorod - they have scored seven and conceded 12 in that time at a rate of 4.75 goals per game.
World Cup form: WDD
Recent form (including friendlies): DDWWDD
Mario Mandzukic may have scored just nine goals in 38 Serie A and Champions League outings combined for Juventus last term, but he remains a key player for both club and country and will lead the line here.
Denmark have yet to rule William Kvist out of the match, which comes a fortnight on from puncturing his lung and breaking two ribs in the opening-game win against Peru.
Croatia possible starting lineup:
Subasic; Vrsaljko, Lovren, Vida, Strinic; Rakitic, Brozovic, Modric; Perisic, Mandzukic, Rebic
Denmark possible starting lineup:
Schmeichel; Dalsgaard, Kjaer, Christensen, Larsen; Schone, Delaney; Poulsen, Eriksen, Sisto; Jorgensen
Head To Head
The five previous meetings between these two sides have produced two wins apiece and one draw, but the most recent encounter was 14 years ago.
Croatia came out on top 2-1 in Copenhagen on that occasion in a pre-Euro 2004 friendly, ending a three-match winless run in this fixture.
The only previous match at a major tournament came at Euro 1996, meanwhile, with Denmark losing 3-0 on that occasion - Davor Suker netting a brace.
We say: Croatia 0-0 Denmark (Croatia to win on penalties)
Goals may be the norm in knockout ties when Denmark are involved, yet more recent results suggest that they will attempt to keep this match as tight as possible. Croatia certainly have the ability to break down the most stubborn of defences through Modric and Rakitic, but on this occasion they may have to go the full distance.