Costa Rica vs Serbia Preview: European flair meets Central American passion

 

Last edition’s Cinderella story Costa Rica will face off against solid outfit Serbia in the first fixture of Group E on Sunday.

Costa Rica were the surprise package of the World Cup 2018 as they went all the way to the quarterfinals, qualifying from a tough group when no one really gave them a chance. However would they follow it up with another impressive showing here at the Samara Stadium remains to be seen. Two defeats in their last three outings seems to have dampened the spirit and the nation would again play as underdogs in yet another difficult group consisting of Brazil and Switzerland.
Serbia, on the other hand, did not qualify for the world cup in Brazil four years ago and will be making just their second appearance in the premier competition. Their debut in 2010 ended in a disappointing group stage exit. But they have put the past firmly behind them to top Group D of the UEFA qualifiers triumphing over the likes of Austria, Wales and Ireland. They also have had a satisfactory pre-season, the highlight of which was a comprehensive 5-1 victory against Bolivia last week.

Tactical analysis and team news

Serbia

There are no injury issues for Serbian manager Krstajic to worry about heading into the game. There is an impressive balance between youth and experience within Serbia, which makes them favourites to proceed from Group E alongside Brazil.
Vladimir Stojkovic, who will be playing in his third FIFA World Cup, will be the preferred choice for the number one role. Former Chelsea right-back Branislav Ivanovic is likely to start in the centre-back role, as he has done in many friendlies leading up to this fixture. Former Manchester City regular Aleksandar Kolarov will slot in as the full-back.
Nemanja Matic will man the defensive midfield role and he would be ably supported by rising star Sergej Milinkovic-Savic. The Lazio maestro will provide the forward drive from the middle of the park for the Eagles. Adem Ljajic is expected to take up the attacking midfield role after his impressive performance against Bolivia.
Southampton’s Dusan Tadic and Filip Kostic are expected to start on the right and left wings respectively and will be a serious threat with their pace and movement. Leading the line for Serbia will be 23-year old striker Aleksandar Mitrovic. The line-up is filled with impressive individuals who would look to get one over the out-of-form Costa Rica.

Predicted line-up:

Formation: 4-2-1-3

Stojkovic; Rukavina, Ivanovic, Tosic, Kolarov; Matic, Milinkovic-Savic; Ljajic; Costic, Tadic, Mitrovic;

Costa Rica

The Costa Rican Federation recently confirmed that defender Ronald Matarrita would miss the tournament with a harmstring injury, with Kenner Gutierrez being named as his replacement.
A majority of the players who played a key part in their fairytale campaign four years ago have been retained for this year. Due to the lack of confidence persisting in the side, coach Ramirez would perhaps go for a defensive 5-4-1 formation.
In goal, Real Madrid’s Keylor Navas would look to continue his fine form for club and country. In the heart of the defence, the trio of Jhonny Acosta, Giancarlo Gonzale and Oscar Duarte are expected to form a solid partnership. Celtic star Christian Gambao and Everton full-back Bryan Oviedo would complete the five-man backline.
Celso Borges and David Guzman would be expected to start in the centre of the park followed by wingers Bryan Ruiz and Christian Bolanos, both of whom are renowned for their ability to create chances and score goals. Up front, striker Marcos Urena would lead the line after a fine performance in the qualification campaign.

Predicted Line-up:

Formation: 5-4-1

Navas; Gamboa, Gonzalez, Acosta, Duarte, Oviedo; Ruiz, Guzman, Borges, Bolanos; Urena;

Verdict

While Costa Rice are looking to emulate the past, Serbia would be trying to build a future for them in this World cup. Despite their strong showing in 2014 in Brazil, Costa Rica’s current form suggests that they wouldn’t be able to hold a strong Serbian side who are on top of their game heading into the tournament. Serbia’s wide range of talent would get one over the Costa Ricans and a 3-1 victory for the Serbians would be a safe bet.

Prediction: Costa Rica 1-3 Serbia

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