Aleksandar Kolarov’s sensational free-kick proved the difference as Serbia got their World Cup campaign off to a winning start with a 1-0 victory over Costa Rica in Group E.
Serbia, under the tutelage of Mladen Krstajic for the first time in a competitive match, controlled much of Sunday’s clash at Samara Arena, but could not find a way through Costa Rica’s stubborn rearguard until Kolarov stepped just before the hour.
Excellent throughout, Keylor Navas could do little to keep out the defender’s blistering effort, which curled over the wall and into the top corner.
It was nothing less than Serbia deserved for a dominant display, although the best chance of the first half went to Costa Rica’s Giancarlo Gonzalez, who headed over from point-blank range.
Serbia had gone close to prior to Kolarov’s thunderbolt, Aleksandar Mitrovic – a constant thorn in Costa Rica’s side – fluffing his lines when one-on-one with Navas early in the second half.
Mitrovic wasted another chance to wrap up the points late on, but his profligacy did not prove costly as Serbia held on to seal the points.