With Brazil the obvious favourite to top Group E, it falls to the trio of Serbia, Costa Rica and Switzerland to argue for 2nd place to progress to the round of 16. Serbia come in with arguably the best of the squads on paper, and have an 8 year World Cup hiatus to put behind them. The squad sits very much on the extremes, with aged veterans in the defence like Stojkovic, Tosic, Ivanovic, and Kolarov, established stars like Tadic, Matic, Ljajic and Milinkovic-Savic, as well as a crop of young starlets like Jovic, Zivkovic and Milenkovic. It’s a well balanced set of options, if a touch slow in defence.

Soccer World Cup Costa Rica vs Serbia Prediction

The Costa Ricans present the wildcard; once again, most wouldn’t expect them to progress, but they topped a harder group in 2014 en route to a superb quarterfinal berth. Many of the faces who achieved that immense feat have made it to Russia too, and they’ll be optimistic that they could repeat the feat against far less illustrious names on the international stage compared to 4 years ago.

Tactical Considerations:

Serbia typically favour a 4231 shape and it’s been well suited to making good use of the weapons in their side. Experienced fullback Kolarov is still an effective attacking threat from the left, linking up with Kostic further ahead. The midfield of the defensive stalwart Nemanja Matic and creative threat Milinkovic Savic largely picks itself. In defence, coach Mladen Krstajic seems to have settled on a partnership of the veteran Dusko Tosic alongside the young Nikola Milenkovic. At right back, be it Ivanovic or Rukavina, Serbia lack a viable option to handle any Costa Rican speed. In the forward positions, it’s likely that a foursome of Kostic, Ljajic and Tadic will feature behind Aleksandar Mitrovic with intriguing support from the experienced Prijovic. They have inexperienced options off the bench in Zivkovic, Radonjic and Jovic, all of whom have had seasons of promising displays for their respective clubs.

Costa Rica utilize a 541 shape, preferring to target defensive solidity and effective counters, and they’ll be keen to use this to quell Serbian dominance and pressure the slower legs in the European defence. The frontline will likely make use of Urena supported by captain Bryan Ruiz, with coach Oscar Ramirez keeping opposition guessing between Campbell, Wallace and Venegas for the other slot. Celso Borges has cemented his starting berth in midfield, with Guzman and Tejeda having been rotated for the opposite slot alongside him. Keylor Navas naturally is an obvious staple of the defensive line with his superb shot-stopping being of particular interest. Ahead of him, apart from the marauding fullbacks Bryan Oviedo and Cristian Gamboa, the only centre back who seems to have set their slot is Giancarlo Gonzalez. Costa Rica’s identity is very much one based on being solid and combative, and they’ll aim to stifle Serbia in midfield to good effect.

Intriguing Bets:

  • Anytime Goalscorer outside bet? Bryan Ruiz has more World Cup goals than goalscoring favourite Urena.
  • Costa Rican clean sheet? The central Americans have kept 3 clean sheets in their last 4 World Cup matches. However, they conceded 6 goals across their 3 warm up friendlies.
  • Getting it done early? Serbia scored over 60% of their goals in their warm up friendlies in the first half of matches.

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Match Facts & Summary

  Costa Rica   Serbia
World Cup Base St. Petersburg Kaliningrad
Odds – Result Win – 3.71 Draw – 2.28 Win – 0.89
2018 Form (most recent first) LLWLW WLWL
2014 World Cup Finish Quarterfinals Did Not Qualify
Total Head to Head Record (includes friendlies) No matches played between these sides
Odds – First Goalscorer Urena (6.45), Venegas (6.84) Mitrovic (3.45), Prijovic (3.61)
Odds – Anytime Scorer Urena (2.82), Venegas (2.99) Mitrovic (3.45), Prijovic (3.61)

 

Our Prediction:

On paper, it’s hard to look past Serbia, even with a possible weakness in defence to compensate for. Their midfield of Milinkovic Savic and Matic is well suited to manage whatever combativeness Costa Rica choose to dish out, and flair players like Adem Ljacic, Dusan Tadic, or even youngster Andrija Zivkovic are well capable of making Costa Rica struggle to contain the Serbians. However, Costa Rica have great counter attacking weapons, a goalkeeper well capable of shutting out Serbia on his own. If Navas can keep himself inspired, a surprise draw is not out of the question.

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* Please note – odds mentioned above are subject to change, so always check the latest published odds to be fully certain before betting.

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