The clash between Costa Rica and Serbia will be played at the Cosmos Arena in Samara on June 17th. With the top spot in the group reserved for the Brazilians, Serbia will likely battle with Switzerland for the second position that will lead to the Round of 16, but they must not underestimate Costa Rica who was a hit at the World Cup four years ago in Brazil.
Costa Rica vs. Serbia
Three-Way: 1: Costa Rica +400; X: +229 Draw; 2: Serbia -111 (Odds provided by Delaware Park Sportsbook)
Spread +0.5: Costa Rica -101; Serbia -106
Total 2.5 goals: Over +140; Under -189
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The road to the World Cup
Costa Rica qualified to their fifth World Cup after the inaugural tournament in Italy 1990, and they are coming off the country’s biggest success after reaching the quarter-finals in Brazil. Remember the Ticos who were labeled as huge underdogs in the “Group of Death” with England, Italy, and Uruguay? Well, they finished at the top and were eliminated by Holland in the quarter-finals on penalties, ending the competition without a defeat in regular time. That being said, the experts and bookies are considering them outsiders again, but Costa Rica proved they can beat anyone and the core of that team from four years ago remained the same.
On the other hand, Serbia made it to their 12th World Cup, but they didn’t reach the Round of 16 since France 1998, so after missing out on the competition in Brazil, it seems that the Eagles could advance to the knockout stage here, considering the strength of their squad. Serbia’s biggest success at the WC is the fourth place, and they did it twice, but that was decades ago and not even in the last 50 years.
Costa Rica didn’t impress in the preparations for the World Cup, losing five out of seven international friendlies as four of those defeats came to the WC participants such as Spain, Tunisia, England, and most recently, Belgium. The offense struggled and except for the game when they beat Northern Ireland 3-0, the Ticos had plenty of difficulties to score, while the defense conceded 13 goals in the process.
Serbia won three and lost two in six matches prior to their trip to Russia, and following an unconvincing display and a 1-0 loss to Chile, they bounced back with a comfortable 5-1 victory over Bolivia. They exploited Bolivia’s inferiority in the air and destroyed them from crosses as the preparation for Costa Rica who could have similar problems, but in all fairness, Costa Rica is a much stronger team.
Players to watch
Keylor Navas conceded a rather silly goal to England when Marcus Rashford scored from outside of the box, and the goalkeeper will be monitored on this one as he could turn out to be hero or zero. Usually excellent in one-on-one situations, Navas could find it hard to handle high crosses that will definitely come from both flanks, so this could be a long day for Real Madrid’s shot-stopper.
Aleksandar Mitrovic is Serbia’s best striker at the moment and after having a fantastic half-season with Fulham, helping them in returning to the Premier League, Mitrovic scored five goals in the last three games for the Eagles. He can be a nightmare for opposing defenders because of his strength and ability to play with back to goal, and he’s extremely dangerous in the air, so I expect Mitro to torture Costa Rica’s leaky defense.
- Costa Rica won only two out of the previous ten games
- Costa Rica failed to find the net in four out of the last seven matches
- Serbia didn’t score in just one out of the past 12 games
- Serbia kept the clean sheet in five out of the previous ten matches
It’s going to be the first-ever meeting between the two teams, and unlike in the previous predictions, I will avoid playing on the goals here because I don’t think we will see a very interesting match, so one goal could decide the outcome. Navas has the ability to frustrate the opposing forwards, but one goal in his net could be enough for Serbia to win, and they have a better team in general, so I am backing the Eagles on this one.
The Pick: Serbia to win (-111)