Rooney, who now plays in the United States for DC United, has scored 53 goals in 119 global appearances and last played for England against Scotland in November 2016.
It was also confirmed that the 33-year-old would not wear his usual number 10 shirt and would not captain the side.
All in all, a roaring success. "We have to balance with the under-21s as they have got a competition next summer and the more we move them up the less enthusiastic they are about moving back down, at times, so the players we have moved up we wanted to look at".
England manager Gareth Southgate says the team hasn't been great at recognising its veterans, something he hopes to change.
The 33-year-old Rooney, now playing in Major League Soccer with DC United, has not played for England in nearly two years.
"I don't think [he thought he was going to start the game] but I've not spoken with him".
"It's a shame because we want it to be a fitting tribute to an outstanding player who has often, I think, been undervalued in terms of how well he played for England", he said.
World Cup runners-up Croatia are in last place in League A Group 4, having played a game less than group leaders Spain and England.
Ryan Giggs has backed the shock England return of former Manchester United colleague Wayne Rooney by applauding it as an opportunity to recognise an "iconic player".
"Callum is a striker we worked with briefly with the Under-21s so we know plenty about him", Southgate said.
Although these plans are bound to come in for criticism, England defender Kyle Walker has defended them: "I think it is good". "Wayne was one of our greatest ever England players".
I understand that has caused debate but for me it is a small way of appreciating what he has given to his country. "I'm completely comfortable with the situation".
"In football, and in sport in general, people are not recognised or recognised too late".
"We are a unusual country in that we bemoan the fact we haven't achieved as much as we'd like and then we have a player who should be held in the highest regard and we are spending a lot of time justifying giving him that tribute".