Costa Rica and Serbia begin their World Cup campaigns when they face-off on Sunday with both sides knowing that they probably need a win to stand any chance of progressing. That’s because tournament favourites Brazil are also in Group E and the consensus is that these two nations, along with Switzerland, are playing for second.
After shocking the world four years ago when they topped a group with Uruguay, England and Italy, Costa Rica will be out to do the same again, with many of the heroes from Brazil still in the squad. Meanwhile, Serbia have a nice mix of exciting youngsters and quality, experienced figures and will have hopes of surprising a few and going a long way in Russia.
Here we will give you Costa Rica vs Serbia betting tips, look at where the game will be won, the key players and a Costa Rica vs Serbia prediction for the important Group E encounter.
Our Costa Rica vs Serbia prediction: Costa Rica 0-1 Serbia
Our Costa Rica vs Serbia prediction tips is for the European side to edge a tight game that gets them off to a perfect start.
Despite having talented players over the years, things haven’t clicked for Serbia in international football. Whether it is politics at a high level causing a fuss or fan behaviour impacting the team, something always seemed to go wrong. However, that changed in the last qualifying campaign with the Serbs coming through a difficult group containing Austria, Ireland and Wales to qualify. Obviously, with this being Serbia, the manager that took them to Russia was sacked but they seem to be in a good place right now.
With the likes of Aleksandr Kolorov, Branislav Ivanovic and Nemanja Matic just a few of the experienced, recognisable names, Serbia have a strong mentality within the group. Going forward, they boast Sergej Milinković-Savić, Aleksandr Mitrovic and Dusan Tadic who can be game changers, and they should be too much for Costa Rica on the day.
The Central American side are well organised and will be hard to beat, particularly with Keylor Navas in goal, but ultimately they lack pace and dynamism up front and are an old side. They will find it tough to keep out a powerful Serbia side that have threats from all over.
Our recommended tip –Serbia to win
Given that, we think Serbia to win is a great bet for this Group E clash.
Quite simply, they are too strong in too many areas and defensively they should have little trouble keeping out a toothless Costa Rica attack. Whilst Serbia aren’t always big scorers themselves, they have a lot of variety in their attacks.
It could take something inventive from a Ljajic or a Tadic, a header from Mitrovic or even a set-piece goal but ultimately we expect Serbia to find the one they will need. If they open the scoring they can manage the game effectively and will be able to see it out.
As with many encounters involving sides with different continents, particularly two like Costa Rica and Serbia who don’t always qualify for major tournaments, this is the first time the two nations will meet in Samara.
Regarding their recent form, both head to Russia on the back of mixed results. Serbia suffered defeats to Chile and Morocco in the past few months, although a thumping win over Bolivia in their last match will give them confidence.
As for Costa Rica, they should be worried. Whilst they have won two of their last five, they were against much-changed Scotland and Northern Ireland sides. They’ve lost the other five friendly games they’ve played since qualifying, including some heavy defeats to Belgium and Spain.
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Players to watch – Sergej Milinković-Savić & Keylor Navas
One of the reasons Serbia changed manager despite qualifying was that Slavoljub Muslin didn’t put faith in the younger players, particularly Milinković-Savić. He has had an outstanding campaign with Lazio, establishing himself as one of the best midfielders in Serie A and has been linked with £100m moves away. He is a complete midfielder, will have license to roam with Matic sitting behind him and could be a major threat to Costa Rica on Sunday.
Costa Rica have a top class player in their own ranks, even if he doesn’t always get the credit he deserves. Navas, the Real Madrid keeper, is perhaps not a world-class stopper but he is still very good and three successive Champions League’s prove that. He will be a busy man on Sunday and throughout the tournament but he has the ability to keep his country in games and will need to be in top form.