The Europeans returned to the tournament after missing Brazil 2014.
Costa Rica and Serbia are ready for lift-off at the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia as they arrive in Samara, a city that is famous as Russia’s aerospace centre.
Costa Rica are coming off a historic Brazil 2014 journey, where they were the Cinderella story of the tournament, advancing all the way to the quarter-finals after getting out of a tough group with England, Italy and Uruguay. Although they have lost the majority of their recent international friendlies, Los Ticos will take confidence from their qualifying campaign, which included a 4-0 rout of the USA on home soil.
Serbia are back at the world finals for the first time since 2010, where they failed to advance past the group stage despite defeating Germany 1-0 in their second match. Serbia finished top of Group D in European qualifying ahead of the likes of Republic of Ireland, Wales and Austria.
Team Reporter Analysis
Diego Picado (Costa Rica)
This first game will be a key one for Oscar Ramirez and his players, and they know it. Costa Rica have been losing their recent friendly matches and they are under pressure, but they are going to use this pressure in a positive way to focus on winning this game. Brazil 2014 inspires them and Costa Rica want to repeat that in Russia 2018.
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Sonja Nikcevic (Serbia)
Serbia go into their first World Cup match in eight years after a thumping 5-1 victory in their friendly against Bolivia and spirits in the team camp are high. The main talking points are that there’s a great atmosphere in the team with many key players having ended their club seasons in top form – and that’s exactly what coach Mladen Krstajic will be looking for his team to reproduce against Costa Rica.
Did You Know?
Serbia have won all three of their previous World Cup fixtures against CONCACAF opposition (all as Yugoslavia, and all in the group stage) — 4-1 v Mexico in Porto Alegre in 1950, 1-0 against Honduras in Zaragoza in 1982 and 1-0 v USA in Nantes in 1998.
Costa Rica: Keylor Navas; Giancarlo Gonzalez, Oscar Duarte, Johnny Acosta, Cristian Gamboa, Bryan Oviedo; David Guzman, Celso Borges, Bryan Ruiz, Christian Bolanos; Marco Urena
Serbia: Vladimir Stojkovic; Branislav Ivanovic, Nikola Milenkovic, Dusko Tosic, Aleksandar Kolarov; Nemanja Matic, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, Dusan Tadic, Adem Ljajic, Filip Kostic; Aleksandar Mitrovic
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