The Juventus striker finally limped off utterly exhausted six minutes from time but promised unstinting effort on Sunday to bring the World Cup back to the nation of some four million people.
The 12 boys, aged 11-16, and their 25-year-old coach became trapped by rising floodwaters after setting off to explore a cave complex in northern Thailand after football training on June 23.
Croatia defeated England 2-1 thanks to Mario Mandzukic's winning goal in extra time.
FIFA.com reports that when the final whistle blew, the Croatians ran straight to their fans, jumping into the sea of red and white. That goal was cancelled out by a second-half Ivan Perisic equalizer to ensure the sides were tied at 1-1 after 90 minutes.
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"This is something indescribable", said Perišić in the aftermath.
"I think at the Euro we thought it was already a done deal, the mentality was not the same as now".
Towering defender Harry Maguire has risen to cult hero status at the World Cup and he has had an army of family and pals following him around during the tournament. We will want to give a performance of huge pride.
"Again there was drama, it couldn't have been otherwise".
"And that is a real feature of this generation of players".
"We've left everything out there".
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England lost much of their first-half momentum after the break.
Croatia, meanwhile, has played an extra game given the three 30-minute extra times they've participated in. But the tougher things are, the better we seem to perform, we have no fear. We were so close to what was unimaginable at the start.
"By the end several players were out on their feet and we were down to 10".
Belgium and England will meet in the third-place match of the 2018 World Cup on Saturday. Now, a new generation, inspired by captain Luka Modric, has created its own history. I'm sure that we'll recover and we'll be fine - this is the World Cup final and there are no excuses. This may have been an extra motivating factor for us.
"But this is a totally different story".
"For us, we are not the favourites".
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"Two years ago it was tough", said one of the returnees, goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.