newsdog Facebook

Kolarov scores from free kick; Serbia beats Costa Rica, 1-0

thespec 2018-06-18 02:18:09

But there was some uncertainty surrounding the team after a pair of friendly losses heading into the World Cup, including a 4-1 rout by Belgium a week ago.

"The Serbians did their homework very well," Costa Rica coach Oscar Ramirez said. "We tried to pressure them. And I think it was a tight match. We should have capitalized on our opportunities the same way they did."

Serbia coach Mladen Krstajic, who replaced Slavoljub Muslin last year, put together a veteran defence with Kolarov and former Chelsea player Branislav Ivanovic. Also included were Manchester United midfielder Matic, and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, who had an apparent falling out with Muslin but was brought to Russia by Krstajic.

Ivanovic made his record 104th appearance for the national team, surpassing Dejan Stankovic's mark. The 34-year-old Ivanovic had matched Stankovic's record last Saturday in a 5-1 friendly win over Bolivia. Stankovic, known as "Deki," played for the national team from 1998-2013, through three different eras: Yugoslavia, Serbia-Montenegro and finally Serbia.

Group dynamics


Costa Rica advanced out of the group stage in Brazil with victories over Uruguay and Italy and a draw with England, but the country's players insisted in the run-up to Sunday's game that this team should not be judged on the past.

"There's always a lot of talk about four years ago, but this is a new World Cup, a new history," Costa Rica defender Giancarlo Gonzales said. "Some of us are repeating, but there are teammates who are playing their first World Cup. We know the eyes of the world are on us."

Costa Rica will next face Brazil on Friday in St. Petersburg, while Serbia plays Switzerland in Kaliningrad on the same day.

Keys to success


Milinkovic-Savic gave Navas a workout in the first half, and while he didn't score, he is clearly a potent weapon for Serbia.

He challenged Navas in the 27th minute from just outside the box, but Navas fell on the ball. Navas also stopped Milinkovic-Savic's bicycle kick in front of the goal in the 42nd minute, but it was ruled offside.

Currently with Italian club Lazio, rumours have swirled that Manchester United might be interested in the dynamic 23-year-old midfielder.

Down but not out


Ramirez did his best to raise the spirits of the Ticos following the match, but he was also realistic.

"From what I've seen in the locker-room, we still believe," the Costa Rica coach said. "We know that it will be hard because we have to face Brazil and Switzerland. But who knows?"