Best Odds: 13/15
Costa Rica locks horns with Serbia in an opening match of the Group E with both the Ticos and Eagles hoping to get off a flying start to their respective World Cup campaign.
The 2014 World Cup quarter finalists head into the World Cup on the back of a string of poor performances. The Ticos lost their final two friendly internationals ahead of the final shopiece in Russia by a desperately humiliating 6-1 scoreline.
Furthermore, Costa Rica lost six of their final eight matches which all contributed to a poor sentiment heading into the World Cup. Lack of goals has been the biggest problem for Costa Rica knowing the Central Americans scored just two in their last seven matches. The opening match at the World Cup is crucial for Costa Rica as it could be a huge morale boost for the team. The forthcoming clash will be the first ever meeting between the two sides and the Ticos will most definitely be keen to make it a memorable one. It will be easier said than done however as Serbia could potentially be considered one of the dark horses of the tournament.
Real Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas is the one to watch for Costa Rica who should have an almost full roster to choose from for the opening match against Serbia.
Left-back Ronald Matarrita has picked up an injury to his right leg in training and has been ruled out for the entire World Cup. He will be replaced by Kenner Gutierrez.
Having topped their qualifying group ahead of the likes of Republic of Ireland, Wales and Austria, the Serbian national head into the World Cup with high expectations. The Eagles return to the international stage for the first time since 2010 and are determined to make their presence known after a lengthy break.
Former Werder Bremen defender Mladen Krstajic has replaced Slavoljub Muslin at the helm in a surprise plot twist which saw the experienced manager who booked the Russian visa replaced by the managerial novice, but Krstajic is out to send a message. He deserves great credit for uniting the team and improving the squad from the tactical point of view. Serbia boast a talented squad filled with top-shelf players such as Nemanja Matic or Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and will be expected to go full force against the Ticos on Sunday. All eyes will be on the Newcastle United striker Aleksandar Mitrovic who warmed up for the World Cup with a hat-trick against Bolivia last time out.
Uros Spajic has missed a training session this week and could be spared the Costa Rica trouble despite not even being Krstajic’s first choice defender.
Branislav Ivanovic is expected to start on the right-back instead of Rukavina, whereas Andrija Zivkovic could be given a starting berth instead of Dusan Tadic.
Key Factors to Consider
- Serbia return to the World Cup after an eight-year break
- Costa Rica conceded six goals in their last two matches
- The Ticos have lost six of their last eight matches across all competitions
- Costa Rica scored 3 goals in last 7 games
- Serbia warmed up for the Costa Rica clash with a 5-1 win over Bolivia
The 2014 World Cup quarter-finalists are not the same team they were in Brazil. Their poor form is worrying ahead of the World Cup and that’s an argument thumping Serbia will try to use in their favour. The Eagles are highly motivated to hit the ground running in Russia and are expected to put in an inspired display.
Best Odds: 13/15
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