Kolarov scores from free kick, Serbia beats Costa Rica 1-0
- Felicia Parsons
The early-morning Father's Day gift many Ticos had been hoping for did not materialize this morning: despite a wide-open first half, Costa Rica was dominated by Serbia in the second and lost 1-0 in its opening World Cup 2018 match.
Serbia hardly looked like a cohesive unit on Sunday―more on that later―but the one positive standout throughout was Lazio man Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, who ran the show from his position behind the main striker.
It was too late by the time Costa Rica finally took the game to Serbia, and after a couple of VAR checks took us to the 98th minute, the final whistle was blown to hand Mladen Krstajic's side a jump start ahead of Brazil v Switzerland on Sunday evening.
The former Chelsea defender made his 104th worldwide appearance, surpassing the previous record of 103 which he held jointly with former midfielder Dejan Stankovic.
They fashioned half a chance when Tadic played a pass to Mitrovic, who produced a sublime touch to bring it down but saw his shot blocked.
They split possession with Serbia, had 10 shots just like their opponents and the same amount of efforts on target (three), but just couldn't create good enough chances to really threaten.
But a narrow, one-goal win over a Costa Rican team that came into the World Cup in poor form is hardly cause for celebration, and the match highlighted a key weakness in the side.
Filip Kostic had a great chance to double Serbia's lead on 76 minutes after being picked out by Dusan Tadic's cross on the right, but the substitute failed to make clean contact with the goal at his mercy.
The attackers looked void of a lot of creativity and confidence going forward and while the defence originally held strong against Serbia's attacking players, they came unstuck after Kolarov's excellent free-kick put them behind. "Some of us are repeating, but there are teammates who are playing their first World Cup".
Serbia's Nemanja Matic, meanwhile, was involved in an ugly confrontation with a member of the Costa Rica coaching staff in injury time as the Manchester United midfielder tried to retrieve the ball after it went out of play.
Milinkovic-Savic gave Navas a workout in the first half, and while he didn't score, he is clearly a potent weapon for Serbia. The goal wouldn't have counted, as Milinkovic-Savic was offside, but it was a attractive effort nonetheless.