Group E: Costa Rica vs Serbia - soccer world cup Preview

Two players compete for ball

Costa Rica and Serbia open things up in Group E at the soccer world cup on Sunday afternoon. 

Costa Rica shocked the world in the 2014 soccer world cup when they topped their group which featured England, Italy and Uruguay to progress to the last 16. La Tricolor bowed out in the quarter-finals after only losing on penalties to Louis Van Gaal’s Netherlands in a match that will be famously remembered for goalkeeper Tim Krul coming off the bench in the 120th minute to save two penalties in the shootout.

Serbia have a great team on paper with a couple of English Premier League players, but truth be told, they’ve often flattered to deceive. Could that change this time around?

Costa Rica vs Serbia | Sunday 17 June | Samara Arena | 14:00

To Win Outright
Costa Rica 7/2
Draw 22/10
Serbia 17/20

Costa Rica
The Costa Ricans should be delighted about goalkeeper Keylor Navas’ current form as he had the game of his life when his Real Madrid beat Liverpool 3-1 in the UEFA Champions League final. His leadership from the back will be vital as they don’t have too many big-name players. In the 2014 soccer world cup, they beat both Uruguay and Italy and managed to hold England to a goalless draw to amass an impressive seven points which saw them shockingly finish as group winners.

In their three group stage games of the previous tournament, they only conceded one goal which was a first half penalty converted by Edinson Cavani and in their 16 qualifying games for this tournament, they only conceded twice on two occasions.

Serbia
On paper, this is a better squad than their opponents’. They have players like Aleksandar Kolarov, Branislav Ivanovic, Nemanja Matic, Dusan Tadic, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and Aleksandar Mitrovic to mention a few. Serbia topped their six-team qualification table after winning six of their 10 games.

Mitrovic and Tadic really stepped up to the plate during the qualification campaign and they have 10 goals between them in 10 matches, with Mitrovic finding the back of the net six times and Tadic scoring four goals. Kolarov is a dead-ball specialist and is known for his educated left foot. Those are the kind of threats Costa Rica will have to deal with.

Manchester United’s Matic will be expected to keep things tight at the back while Ivanovic brings a great deal of experience in the defence. The last time Serbia featured in the soccer world cup, it was in 2010, where they crashed out in the first hurdle but they will be famously remembered for beating Germany 1-0 in their only win in the tournament.

Verdict: Costa Rica 7/2
Serbia’s team look better on paper, but collectively, Costa Rica have proved that they can trouble anyone. It’s going to be difficult for Mitrovic and company to breach their defensive unit. I’m backing Costa Rica here at a valuable 7/2.

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