MX23RW : Monday, September 24 08:08:12
Jun 17, 2018 at 1pm UK at ​Cosmos Arena
Attendance: 41,432
Costa Rica
0-1
SerbiaSerbia

Calvo (22'), Guzman (56')
FT(HT: 0-0)
Kolarov (56')
Ivanovic (59'), Prijovic (90')

Live Commentary: Costa Rica 0-1 Serbia - as it happened

Live Commentary: Costa Rica 0-1 Serbia - as it happened
© Reuters
Relive Sports Mole's coverage of the 2018 World Cup in Russia as Serbia record a hard-fought 1-0 win against Costa Rica in Group E at the Cosmos Arena.

Serbia kicked off their 2018 World Cup campaign in Russia against Costa Rica, who proved the surprise package four years ago when they made the quarter-finals in Brazil.

Los Ticos might have taken a lead into the break from a functional first half, but Bologna centre-back Giancarlo Gonzalez passed up a standout chance when he was left unmarked before heading over the bar.

In the end the game was settled by a piece of brilliance from Serbian left-back Aleksandar Kolarov, who curled home a stunning free kick in the 56th minute to claim an opening win for Mladen Krstajic's charges.

Relive all of the action with our minute-by-minute updates below.


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12.00pmGood afternoon and welcome to our live coverage as Costa Rica take on Serbia in the opening game of Group E at the World Cup in Russia. Costa Rica were the surprise package in Brazil four years ago when they reached the quarter-finals, while Serbia are back in the showpiece having not qualified for 2014.

12.01pmCOSTA RICA STARTING XI: Navas; Acosta, Gonzalez, Duarte, Calvo, Gamboa; Borges, Venegas, Guzman, Ruiz; Urena

12.02pmSERBIA STARTING XI: Stojkovic; Ivanovic, Milenkovic, Tosic, Kolarov; Matic, Milivojevic; Tadic, Ljajic, Milinkovic-Savic; Mitrovic

12.02pmCOSTA RICA SUBSTITUTES: Smith, Bolanos, Colindres, Campbell, Wallace, Azofeifa, Tejeda, Pemberton, Waston, Gutierrez, Moreira

12.03pmSERBIA SUBSTITUTES: Rukavina, Spajic, Zivkovic, Prijovic, Rajkovic, Veljkovic, Rodic, Grujic, Kostic, Radonjic, Jovic, Dmitrovic

12.05pmSo the key team news for Costa Rica is that Marco Urena leads the country's line in a 5-4-1 formation that sees creative support coming from Bryan Ruiz and Johan Venegas, while David Guzman and Celso Borges are charged with holding the centre of the pitch.

12.07pmAt the back, the Central American side will operate with full-backs in the shape of Cristian Gamboa and Francisco Calvo, while a trio of Bologna defender Giancarlo Gonzalez, Johnny Acosta and Espanyol's Oscar Duarte will sit in the centre of the defence. Real Madrid stopper Keylor Navas features between the sticks.

12.09pmAs for Serbia, Mladen Krstajic has gone for a 4-2-3-1 with their striking department being led by Newcastle United striker Aleksandar Mitrovic. Sitting in the three behind Serbia have the creative presence of Dusan Tadic, hotly-tipped playmaker Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and Adem Ljajic.

12.11pmWith Milinkovic-Savic sitting a little further forward than usual, Serbia have two pivots deeper in midfield, with Nemanja Matic and Luka Milivojevic aiming to control the middle. Former Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic becomes the country's most-capped player as he starts at right-back, leaving Aleksandar Kolarov taking his spot on the left. Dusko Tosic and Nikola Milenkovic are the centre-backs.

12.13pmIn Brazil four years ago, Costa Rica proved one of the tournament's standout sides as they broke out of a supposed 'group of death' before reaching the quarter-finals.

12.15pmLos Ticos met Louis van Gaal's Netherlands in the last eight of the showpiece, but after a dogged display lost out on penalties much to the heartbreak of much of Central American and a number of neutrals.

12.17pmCosta Rica have now qualified for their fifth World Cup. Including the country's run in Brazil, the nation has reached the knockout stages in two of their four previous appearances, with the other progression beyond the groups coming in 1990.

12.19pmExcluding that penalty shootout defeat to Holland, Costa Rica were one of just three teams to go through the 2014 World Cup unbeaten, alongside the Dutch and eventual winners Germany.

12.21pmAcross their last three out of four previous appearances in the World Cup, Costa Rica have managed to open up their tournament with a victory in the first group game. The exception came in 2006 when the country was beaten 4-2 by then-hosts Germany.

12.23pmCoach Oscar Ramirez will now be leading the country in what will be his first managerial appearance at a World Cup. The coach came into the job last August after Paulo Wanchope resigned following his involvement in a brawl at a youth match in Panama.

12.25pmRamirez actually played every single minute of Costa Rica's debut 1990 World Cup campaign so will be well aware of the stresses and strains placed on his players throughout this summer's showpiece.

12.27pmCosta Rica had to endure a testing battle for qualification from the CONCACAF standings. Initially Los Ticos started the second stage of qualifying with wins over Trinidad and Tobago and the United States, but then collected only two victories from eight matches going forward.

12.26pmIn the end, though, Ramirez's side did just about enough to qualify in second place behind Mexico, while the country's final contest in the group against Panama saw the minnows book a place in Russia with a memorable 2-1 victory over La Sele.

12.29pmSince qualification, Costa Rica have won just two of seven friendlies, losing the other five contests, inclusive defeats to England, Belgium and Tunisia along the way.

12.31pmComing up against Serbia, Los Ticos know that this clash could be crucial to their qualification hopes with tougher tests likely to come against favourites Brazil and sixth-ranked Switzerland later in the group.

12.32pmInheriting both Yugoslavia and Serbia & Montenegro's records since claiming complete autonomy, this is officially Serbia's 12th World Cup participation across the years.

12.33pmCompeting solely as Serbia, the nation is yet to make it out of the group stages following relative failures in the 2006 and 2010 editions of the tournament. The country failed to qualify for the last edition in Brazil.

12.35pmAcross their last two times in the tournament, during 2006 and 2010, Serbia have actually lost five of their six group games. The country's only win was a surprise victory over Germany in South Africa in 2010.

12.37pmCurrent coach Mladen Krstajic has come into the role in rather strange circumstances. Previous coach Slavoljub Muslin led the nation to top their group and grab the only automatic qualifying spot ahead of the likes of Wales and the Republic of Ireland in the build up to the tournament, only for the Serbian FSS to announce his departure at the end of October 2017.

12.39pmIn came Krstajic, who played as a defender with 59 caps for his country and also featured prominently for Serbia and Montenegro at the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

12.40pmSerbia have won three out of six friendly matches since booking a place at the tournament. The peak of those saw frontman Mitrovic score a hat-trick in a 5-1 mauling of Bolivia. Prior to that win Serbia were beaten 1-0 at home by Chile in a game that followed a 2-0 away win in Nigeria.

12.41pmLazio's Milinkovic-Savic is arguably one young player to watch across the tournament. The dynamic midfielder has enjoyed a breakout season in Serie A and has reportedly attracted interest from the likes of Real Madrid and Manchester United. Could this be the tournament that launches the 23-year-old on the global stage, much like Colombia's James Rodriguez was four years ago in Brazil?

12.43pmPerhaps Serbia's most influential player comes in the form of Southampton's Tadic, though. The attacking midfielder provided seven assists during the country's European qualification process for the showpiece. Only Germany's Joshua Kimmich contributed more with nine assists across qualifying.

12.45pmObserving Serbia's midfield you get the sense that Krstajic's men have more than enough power to override Costa Rica. We haven't mentioned Crsytal Palace general Luka Milivojevic who shone in the Eagles' survival bid last season. Added to that is veteran Manchester United midfielder Nemanja Matic, who has bags of experience on the biggest of stages in club football.

12.47pmSerbia's best showings at the World Cup came under the moniker of Yugoslavia in both 1930 and 1962 when they finished fourth each time. Since 1962, the nation - under a number of guises - has failed to go beyond the quarter-finals. As mentioned, competing solely as Serbia the country has not moved beyond the groups.

12.49pmThese two sides will be meeting for the first time ever at international level when they go into battle at the Samara Arena this afternoon.

12.50pmSpeaking ahead of the contest with FIFA TV, Matic has suggested that facing Costa Rica is the country's most important game in the group:


12.51pmLos Ticos coach Ramirez has called on his side to show intensity in what he believes could be a dangerous opening 20 minutes for his charges: "The first match in the World Cup is always crucial. When the game starts we will see how to handle Serbia. They will put a lot of pressure on in the first 20 minutes and we need to deal with this with balance and calm nerves. Intensity will be key. If we score first or they score first, that is key. I am concerned about this aspect."

12.53pmPREDICTION: Costa Rica pulled off the remarkable four years ago in Brazil, but the squad has aged a little since then and Los Ticos have not fared too well in their recent friendlies. Serbia have also been rather inconsistent in the run-up to the tournament, but with the likes of Tadic, Matic and Milinkovic-Savic in their ranks, the country will be confident of kicking things off with a victory. I'm backing Serbia to win this contest 2-1.

12.55pmAttacking midfielder Ruiz has also insisted that things will be a little trickier for Costa Rica this time around:


12.57pmWe are just running through the respective national anthems and will be underway. The Samara Arena is packed out with both Central Americans and Serbians alike. It's arguably one of the most colourful backdrops we've seen in the tournament so far.

12.59pmHere's a quick recap of the starting XIs before we get moving...

COSTA RICA STARTING XI: Navas; Acosta, Gonzalez, Duarte, Calvo, Gamboa; Borges, Venegas, Guzman, Ruiz; Urena

SERBIA STARTING XI: Stojkovic; Ivanovic, Milenkovic, Tosic, Kolarov; Matic, Milivojevic; Tadic, Ljajic, Milinkovic-Savic; Mitrovic


1 minKICKOFF! Off we go then, Serbia get us going in Samara...

2 minSerbia launch the ball forward from the off and are able to win a cheap corner thanks to some quick thinking from Ivanovic. The corner comes in and the deflection almost falls kindly for Mitrovic, but Gonzalez can hook clear.

3 minCLOSE! Costa Rica respond with a wonderful break led by Ruiz. The winger sends a delightful chipped ball over the back of Kolarov for the run of Urena, but Stojkovic is quick off his line to smother the striker's shot.

5 minThis game has started brightly with both sides happy to move forward at pace. Another corner is won by the Serbs, but Ljajic's set-piece evades everyone before Kolarov concedes a cheap free kick to hand Costa Rica possession inside their own half.

7 minLos Ticos are aiming for long balls into Urena at the moment, trying to use his pace to break off either Milenkovic or Tosic. Serbia are holding firm as Krstajic calls for calm on the touchline.

8 minSHOT! Kolarov has a wicked left foot at times and on this occasion the left-back opens up from range, but his flashed drive is always going wide as the effort skews beyond the far post.

10 minSerbia have settled into a pattern of possessional dominance in the last few minutes. Costa Rica look compact at the back and defend effectively with Milinkovic-Savic probing on the edge of the area.

11 minVenegas comes into the game for the first time on the left, where he skips forward only to be thwarted by Ivanovic at right-back. Both sides are taking a good look at each other in the opening moments here.

12 minCHANCE! Hmm... Serbia fall asleep from a corner and a short set-piece sees Guzman send a cross into the middle of the box. For some unknown reason, all of three Costa Rica players are left unmarked, allowing Gonzalez a free head at goal. Even more surprisingly, he rises to plant his effort straight over the bar with the goal gaping.

14 minSerbia respond as Mitrovic takes control of the ball on the edge of the box. The frontman has Tadic on the overlap, but instead decides to go it alone and sees his deflected effort fall kindly into the arms of Navas.

15 minUrena has plenty of guile going forward and his bright run requires some clever defending from Milenkovic, who does just about enough to thwart the striker's persistent running inside the box.

16 minCLOSE! Game on at the moment... Ivanovic shows a surprising turn of pace to break down the right, before producing some neat skill to roll his marker. The full-back carves out space to drive a cross into the box, where Navas gets a telling hand to the ball to thwart Mitrovic.

18 minTadic loops a high free kick into the area where Ivanovic wins the first ball. Costa Rica are quick to react, though, as Acosta is across to hoof the ball out of danger.

20 minTadic can drive down the right and he soon comes inside on his left to beat Calvo and cross, but there's a real lack of options in the box, allowing Duarte to head away unchallenged.

22 minYELLOW CARD! Calvo goes into the book for a late challenge on Tadic. Costa Rica had made good strides through Venegas before Milivojevic got across to intercept and hand the ball to Tadic on the break.

24 minCLOSE! Tadic drags defenders wide on the right and that opens up space for Ljajic to move into inside the area. The ball is flicked into the path of the winger, whose first-time cross into the box flashes across the face of goal and away from danger. Again, no Serbian decides to gamble.

26 minPlay has just started to settle into a particular pattern with Serbia doing most of the pushing forward with the ball. Costa Rica are dropping deeper and deeper. Mitrovic brings the ball out of the air superbly with a splendid touch, but Calvo is across to block the resulting shot.

27 minCHANCE! A long ball forward finds Milinkovic-Savic break free of the last defender. The playmaker looks up and shifts a shot out from under his feet, but the effort is a tame one and is easy for Navas to gather down low. Luckily for the Serb, he soon looks up to see the linesman flagging for offside. It was a sitter of a miss really...

29 minCosta Rica's early energy has faded slightly with Serbia assuming possessional control. Ramirez will be hoping his side can use the counter effectively when they get their chance.

31 minTadic and Milinkovic-Savic aim to combine down in the right corner, although Venegas gets back to defend brilliantly and earn his side a cheap free kick that just takes some slight pressure off the defending team.

33 minTadic has been the standout performer thus far over on the right channel. Serbia might just want to think about getting their wingers to rotate and cause some confusion at the back for Los Ticos. Serbia are in control at the moment, but Costa Rica have arguably had the best chance of the game with that Gonzalez header.

35 minOUCH! Tosic leaps highest in the middle of the pitch to beat the challenge of Costa with a powerful header, but the challenge has left both men on the deck. It looks a tad painful to be honest...

37 minCosta Rica won't be too dishearten with how things have panned out so far. Serbia are dominant but not lethal in the final third as things stand. Urena carves himself out a slither of space on the edge of the area to get a shout away, but it's always rising and flies over Stojkovic's goal.

39 minCalvo saunters forward on a rare occasion for the Reds and is able to win a corner off Ivanovic, who slides in to block the cross into the middle. The resulting corner is dealt well with by Milinkovic-Savic, though, as the midfielder rises to head clear.

41 minCosta Rica have just claimed a positive share of the ball in the last few moments, pushing Serbia back inside their own half. Calvo cuts inside from the left channel and drives towards the bottom corner with his right. Stojkovic watches it all the way as it flies wide of the target.

43 minCLOSE! Serbia respond with a neat break led by Matic. A cross is then whipped into the middle of the box from deep, where Milinkovic-Savic produces a stunning bicycle kick that is kept out by the fists of Navas.

45 minWe are going to have two minutes of additional time in the first half in Samara.

45+2 minHALF TIME: COSTA RICA 0-0 SERBIA

1.47pmSo far it's a stalemate in Samara, but it has not been the borefest that the scoreline might suggest. Serbia have been the better of the two teams, although Costa Rica have given a good account of themselves. The Central Americans might well have found themselves ahead too.

1.48pmSerbia fell asleep on that early corner and Gonzalez will be kicking himself for missing what should have been an opening goal for Costa Rica. Since that chance, Serbia have assumed control with the ball. Tadic has been threatening but the country's best chance came courtesy of what was a speculative bicycle kick from Milinkovic-Savic. Serbia have work to do tying together midfield and attack.

2.00pmCosta Rica have both Joel Campbell and Christian Bolanos to make an impact going forward off the bench and Ramirez might just turn to the pair as the game wears on. Serbia, meanwhile, need to work out a way of drawing a few more Costa Rican bodies out of defence.

46 minSECOND HALF! Here we are then, Costa Rica get the second period moving at the Cosmos...

48 minIt's a snappy start to the half as Milinkovic-Savic is reprimanded for a naughty challenge on Borges in the middle of the pitch.

49 minSerbia have settled back down on the ball as they aim to work Los Ticos across the pitch. It's measured work at the moment with Krstajic's men waiting for the gaps to emerge.

50 minCHANCE! Mitrovic has to score... The frontman does superbly to setup a one-two with Milinkovic-Savic on the edge of the area, leaving the frontman to break free over the top for the return ball. The striker just has Navas to beat, but the keeper rushes off his line to make a tremendous save.

52 minSerbia are certainly moving the ball a little quicker than in the first half and it's starting to cause Costa Rica a few issues at the back. This game needs a goal!

54 minKolarov has not got forward enough today. The left-back finally gets into space to turn a clever cross into the middle for Milinkovic-Savic, but Duarte does well to win the header.

56 minMatic is an understated genius. This game has not set the world alight but the Manchester United man is winning and controlling everything that comes past him in the middle.

56 minGOAL! COSTA RICA 0-1 SERBIA (ALEKSANDAR KOLAROV)

56 minTwo keepers wouldn't save this as Serbia take a lead in the second half. Guzman brings down Mitrovic outside of the box, in perfect range for Kolarov to step up and take the free kick. The Roma full-back curls an absolute peach up and over the wall, leaving Champions League-winning stopper Navas with no chance as the ball bends into the top corner.

58 minThat goal should open this game up for the neutrals now. Costa Rica simply have to give something going forward if they want to earn a point from this opening game.

60 minSubstitute Bolanos has the chance to send a free kick into the box and he delivers a teasing ball that is just about dealt with by a leaping Milenkovic in the centre of the area. Serbia dropped a little too deep for that set-piece and Krstajic is livid on the touchline.

62 minSerbia are just inviting a bit of pressure and it's hard to work out whether it's an intentional ploy to set up the break, or whether the goal has just caused them to try to consolidate for a while.

64 minClever movement from Tadic sees the winger drift inside to collect a ball in from Milinkovic-Savic. The Southampton winger aims for a neat back-heel into the path of Mitrovic, although Duarte intercepts.

66 minMilinkovic-Savic is a growing influence now, especially when drifting into the box. Ivanovic gets an early cross into the middle, leaving the towering midfielder to head wide of the far post.

67 minSUBSTITUTION: Costa Rica make another change now as Campbell enters the fray at the expense of Urena, who has picked up a slight knock.

69 minSUBSTITUTION: Serbia make a change too as Kostic comes onto the field, leaving Ljajic to depart. That swap is pretty much like-for-like going forward.

71 minCampbell is given the chance to send a free kick into the box from the left, but once again Milenkovic has control of the box and jumps highest to head away. The centre-back has been brilliant this afternoon.

72 minCHANCE! Milenkovic gets it all wrong this time as he steps up too early and allows Campbell to scamper in behind. The frontman looks to be one-on-one with Stojkovic, but the centre-back recovers with standout strength to deny Costa Rica.

74 minThis game is still hanging in the balance despite Serbia holding the lead. Milinkovic-Savic winds up from range and crashes a shot well over the crossbar. Costa Rica are in with a shout here despite doing very little going forward. Just the one goal separates the sides.

76 minCHANCE! Mitrovic applies great strength to bring the ball down and feed Tadic on the right. The winger whips a cross into the box, where Kostic is unable to sort his feet out to apply a finish on the half-volley with just Navas to beat.

78 minCosta Rica are still pushing for something on the counter. Campbell first sees his shot blocked, before Ruiz has his effort smothered by Tosic just inside the area.

80 minIs there to be a late twist in the tale here in the city of Samaras? Serbia have dropped a little deeper than they might like and Costa Rica are piling forward in the final 10 minutes.

82 minLos Ticos keep possession and a long ball is launched in towards Campbell, but Tosic reads the game perfectly to nip in and clear with his right foot.

84 minWhat do Costa Rica have in their locker? At the moment they seem a little bereft of attacking ideas as another long ball is pumped forward, only for Milenkovic to send it straight back at them.

86 minCHANCE! Milinkovic-Savic leads a fantastic break to play in Mitrovic, who goes down before getting his shot away under the challenge of Gonzalez. The referee waves play on and replays suggest that the striker has tripped over his own feet. That should have been game over.

89 minCLOSE! Milinkovic-Savic is at it again as he drifts in centrally to lay the ball of to Kostic, who drives a rasping effort just inches over the crossbar with Navas scrambling.

90+1 minWe are going to have five minutes of added time!

90+3 minIt's backs to the wall now as Costa Rica send in a late corner. Kolarov is screaming at his teammates to get organised. The Serbs clear comfortably though.

90+5 minMatic isn't a happy bunny as a member of the Costa Rican staff try to keep hold of the ball on the touchline. A scuffle ensues, but no cards and we are back moving again.

90+7 minFULL TIME: COSTA RICA 0-1 SERBIA

2.56pmSo despite the late addition of more stoppage time, Serbia hold on for an important three points with Brazil and Switzerland still to come. The winners did just about enough to earn the victory but it did take a moment of supreme quality. Costa Rica might regret not throwing a little more forward earlier in the game as the draw was still up for grabs. For this group, it's now onto Brazil and Switzerland later tonight, which you can obviously follow with full live coverage on this very website! Thanks for joining me today, that'll be all for now...

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The Serbia team line up before their friendly game with Bolivia on June 9, 2018
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