Surprise outfit Costa Rica take on a talented Serbia side in Group E

Chloe Beresford by Chloe Beresford / 16 June 2018, 16:36

In the first of the Group E fixtures, potential surprise outfit Costa Rica will take on a talented Serbia side who saw off Bolivia 5-1 in a warm-up match last Saturday.

With Brazil clear favourites to go through to the knockout stages in top spot, these sides will be keen to gain all three points as they look to find an advantage over the rest for second place, leading to a potentially exciting fixture at the Samara Arena at lunchtime on Sunday.

This will be the first ever meeting between the two sides, and Serbia are heavily fancied to win, listed at 10/11 by most major bookmakers. However, it would be unwise to completely write off their opponents here, considering that boss Mladen Krstajic is a complete novice and given Costa Rica’s performance in Brazil during the 2014 World Cup.

Excluding penalty shoot-outs, Los Ticos were one of only three sides – with Germany and the Netherlands – to remain unbeaten in the last edition of this tournament, topping a group that also contained Uruguay, England and Italy before being knocked out by the Oranje in the quarter-final. Bet 365 offer 4/1 on a win for Costa Rica, while you can get 12/4 with Skybet on the minnows managing a draw.

Take care, though, as this side lost both of their pre-tournament friendlies, those defeats including a 4-1 hammering by Belgium. Perhaps even worse was the fact Ramirez referred to Red Devils forward Eden Hazard as “The no. 10”, confessing that he didn’t even know his name. This will be his first tournament as a manager, having been an ever-present as a player for Costa Rica in their first ever World Cup in 1990.

Despite some managerial inexperience from opposite number Krstajic, the Serbia squad have plenty of players with experience in Europe’s top five leagues, the likes of Nemanja Matic, Aleksandar Kolarov and Branislav Ivanovic also all having played in the Champions League at domestic level.

Mladen Krstajic

Pictured: Mladen Krstajic, Serbia Manager

Newcastle striker Aleksandar Mitrovic is set to start up front, and having fired in a hat-trick in the aforementioned friendly with Bolivia, a bet of 10/3 with Bet 365 for him to score either first or last is surely worth a punt. Betfair have odds of 40/1 for the number nine to repeat his hat-trick exploits of last weekend, an interesting prospect for a man in form.

Southampton’s Dusan Tadic will likely support his Premier League counterpart alongside Adem Ljajic and Filip Kostic in Serbia’s 4-2-3-1, the forward having helped his club side stave off relegation with six goals and three assists in 2017/18. Indeed, only Germany’s Joshua Kimmich (nine) weighed in with more assists than Tadic (seven) in the World Cup qualifying rounds, and is available at 13/5 to score anytime with Betfair.

One player that must not be ignored is supremely talented Lazio midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic. Linked with a move worth in excess of £90 million this summer, many fans will have an eye on his ability to impact a high profile game. Krstajic will deploy him in an unusual deeper role, but this is unlikely to stop him from demonstrating exactly what he can do.

Prediction: Costa Rica 1-3 Serbia

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