SAMARA, June 17: Aleksandar Kolarov scored from a left-footed free kick in the 56th minute and Serbia opened their World Cup with a 1-0 victory over Costa Rica here today.
Serbia’s Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (centre) heads the ball during the World Cup group E match against Costa Rica in the Samara Arena in Samara, Russia, on Sunday. – AP/PTI
After David Guzman was handed a yellow card, Kolarov curled the ensuing free kick over the wall. Costa Rica goalkeeper Keylor Navas, who plays for Real Madrid, couldn’t reach it.
Serbia, who missed out on the 2014 tournament, had the early advantage in a tough group that includes five-time champion Brazil and Switzerland.
After a scoreless first half, Navas fought off a barrage of challenges to open the second with the boisterous Costa Rican fans cheering him on at Samara Arena.
The final moments of the match were marked by a squabble on the sidelines as Nemanja Matic got into a tussle with a Costa Rican coach. Players from both teams rushed toward the scrum but it was quickly diffused.
The Ticos were the surprise of the last World Cup, sweeping through to the quarterfinals in Brazil before being ousted by the Netherlands on penalties. It was the furthest the small Central American nation had advanced in soccer’s premier tournament.
But there was some uncertainty surrounding the Ticos after a pair of friendly losses heading into the World Cup, including a 4-1 rout by Belgium a week ago. – AP