After an exciting and eventful first couple of days within the World Cup, Group E kicks-off on Sunday afternoon with Serbia facing Costa Rica. On paper, the outcome for the fixture might be easy or hard to predict, but the supporters of the beautiful game of football will know by now that anything can happen.
Costa Rica qualified for the competition by finishing in second place in the FIFA World Cup qualifiers, just five points behind group leaders in Mexico, where the group is made up of national teams who are members of the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football.
Meanwhile, Serbia showed how dominant and defensively solid they can be when they were working really hard over the last two years to qualify for the World Cup. The side qualified for the competition under Slavoljub Muslin, who was sacked by the Football Association of Serbia due to the fact that he didn’t have faith in the young rising talents and the fact that his football wasn’t appealing at all.
Now, under the management of Mladen Krstajic, not many can produce an educated guess on what to expect from the 44-year-old as he has no pure managerial experience and everything that he is facing on a day-to-day basis is quite new to him. However, Krstajic’s first managerial job is coaching the country he played for, which is the perfect outcome for all parties as he was Muslin’s assistant for quite some time.
Overall, Serbia are certainly in for an exciting adventure as their squad is mixed with old experienced defenders to some young attacking-minded individuals. Given the classy character and personality of Krstajic, his enthusiasm and winning mentality is what the current Serbia squad needs from him the most.
With Group E also including Brazil and Switzerland, it is more than crucial that Serbia get off to a solid start by convincingly winning their first fixture against Costa Rica. On the other hand, if things do not go down as planned, a lot of questions will definitely be asked on how the Serbs will go on to respond back.
Looking a bit into Costa Rica’s results throughout the year, they have only won two of the five friendly matches they have played in 2018. In the games where they suffered defeat in, Oscar Ramirez’s side failed to get into the match quickly and did not have the quality up the pitch to go and attack at the opponents, which meant that they had to play in a back-five system to ensure they concede very little.
Serbia’s key individuals will be none other than Aleksander Kolarov, Nemanja Matic and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic. The mentioned trio do not play close enough to one other and nor do they link-up play together constantly throughout the match, however, all three of them are an influential figure within the line-up and they have the ability and skill-set to be effective and successful on both sides of the pitch.
On top of that, the experience and aggressiveness of Branislav Ivanovic in the backline will be as crucial as the consistent creativity and impressive vision that Dusan Tadic posses. Given that Costa Rica will potentially sit back and look to counter attack in quick succession, the movement of Kolarov and Tadic in the opponent’s half will be more than important as Serbia will need to take a lot of risks in order to win.
Serbia – Stojkovic; Rukavina, Ivanovic, Milenkovic, Kolarov; Matic, Milivojevic; Tadic, Milinkovic-Savic, Ljajic; Mitrovic.
Costa Rica – Navas; Oviedo, Duarte, Gonzalez, Acosta, Gamboa; Guzman, Borges, Bolanos, Ruiz; Urena.
Serbia 2-1 Costa Rica.
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