2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™

2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™

14 June - 15 July

Russia 2018

Four things Serbia got right in beating Costa Rica

Players of Serbia celebrates victory following the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group E match between Costa Rica and Serbia
© Getty Images
  • ​Serbia kick off Russia 2018 with 1-0
  • Victory showed off unity of the side
  • A balanced set-up promise much going forward
By Sonja Nikcevic with Serbia

Serbia’s World Cup campaign is off to an ideal start after the Orlovi defeated Costa Rica 1-0 in Samara on Sunday. The only goal came from a pin-point free kick from captain Aleksandar Kolarov early in the second half, capping off a largely dominant display from the European side.

The team now go into preparation for what could be a crucial clash with Switzerland looking to build on the positives from their opening match, and to maintain the momentum that started with an impressive 5-1 friendly victory over Bolivia on June 9. Here are four things that went right for Mladen Krstajic’s team against Costa Rica:

Combining youth and experience in defence
Led by Branislav Ivanovic, who now has a record 104 caps for Serbia, three members of the back four have over 200 national appearances between them and an average age of 33. The fourth member, 20-year-old Nikola Milenkovic, made his competitive debut for Serbia against Los Ticos, and looked like he had as much experience as his team-mates. He and his experienced partner at centre-back, Dusko Tosic, were concentrated, cool and committed to every ball when faced with threats from Bryan Ruiz and Marco Urena.

Allowing for midfield flair
Serbia’s most anticipated World Cup debut was that of Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, and the Lazio star did not disappoint. Combining with Dusan Tadic on the right wing, he forged a partnership that was a constant threat to Costa Rica’s defence, with the pair creating numerous chances between them and showing a creativity that has not been typical of Serbia’s more recent international performances. Both Switzerland and Europe’s biggest clubs will have taken note.

Shifting to two defensive midfielders
Serbia missed their last three major competitions, and while there was plenty of experience in the team, the fear was that World Cup jitters could easily take over after such a long period away from the big stage. The team survived a high-paced opening 15 minutes against Costa Rica with a host of early chances for both sides, but then did well to settle into a rhythm that they controlled. The catalyst for the calm and organised display was the defensive midfield duo of Nemanja Matic and Luka Milivojevic that soaked up Costa Rican pressure with ease.

Showing a united front
The key word in Serbia’s World Cup buildup has been unity, with Federation officials, staff and players alike insisting that the atmosphere in the national team has not been this healthy in decades. It was visible on the pitch of the Samara Arena, but just as much off it as captain Aleksandar Kolarov dedicated the team’s victory and his goal to the Serbian FA’s Sporting Director Goran Bunjevcevic, who suffered a brain aneurysm earlier this year.

“We dedicate this win to our Director, and we want him to know that we are all supporting him.”

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