FIFA World Cup 2018: Costa Rica vs Serbia preview

Costa Rica, Serbia face-off in battle of underdogs

FIFA World Cup 2018: Costa Rica vs Serbia preview
Serbia Press Conference (pic source: REUTERS)

SAMARA, Russia: Costa Rica were the surprise team of the World Cup four years ago in Brazil, reaching the quarter-finals on the back of resilient defensive organisation. 

This time, under a different coach in Oscar Ramirez, the Central Americans know there are different expectations from their fans and the wider football audience.

However, as the team prepares for their first Group E game against Serbia on Sunday, the Costa Ricans are looking to write a new chapter in their country’s footballing history.

“I think it is different this time. 2014 is over, it is our biggest achievement ever in a World Cup but it is another story,” Ramirez told reporters on Saturday.

“Our story starts tomorrow with our first match."

Defender Giancarlo Gonzalez, who scored a penalty in the shootout victory over Greece in the last-16 four years ago, echoed the thoughts of his coach.

“The last World Cup is the past for us, it is ancient history. We need to write a new chapter for us, for Costa Rica,” said the 30-year-old.

“A lot has been talked about the last World Cup, but this is a new World Cup, a new story.”

Ramirez, who played for Costa Rica at Italia `90, warned that Serbia would look to start the game on the front foot.

“When the game starts we will see how to handle Serbia. They will put a lot of pressure on in the first 20 minutes and we need to deal with this with balance and calm nerves,” he said.

“Intensity will be key. If we score first or they score first, that is key. I am concerned about this aspect.”

“It is a team with a lot of qualities and one of them is the physical part, using their bodies to create a strong defence,” added Gonzalez.

“They are as intense as every other European team. We have prepared to be stronger in this area but the most important thing is to think about what we can do because we cannot only think about our defence, we have to talk about our qualities as well and our strengths and try to get the most out of them tomorrow.”

World Cup favourites Brazil take on Switzerland in the other Group E clash on Sunday.

Costa Rica full squad:

Goalkeepers: Keylor Navas (Real Madrid/ESP), Patrick Pemberton (Alajuelense), Leonel Moreira (Herediano)

Defenders: Cristian Gamboa (Celtic/SCO), Ian Smith (Norrkoping/SWE), Ronald Matarrita (New York City FC/USA), Bryan Oviedo (Sunderland/ENG), Oscar Duarte (Espanyol/ESP), Giancarlo Gonzalez (Bologna/ITA), Francisco Calvo (Minnesota United/USA), Kendall Waston (Vancouver Whitecaps/USA), Johnny Acosta (Rionegro Aguilas/COL)

Midfielders: David Guzman (Portland Timbers/USA), Yeltsin Tejeda (Lausanne/SUI), Celso Borges (Deportivo La Coruna/ESP), Randall Azofeifa (Herediano), Rodney Wallace (New York City FC/USA), Cristian Bolanos (Saprissa) Bryan Ruiz (Sporting Lisbon/POR)

Forwards: Daniel Colindres (Saprissa), Joel Campbell (Real Betis/ESP), Johan Venegas (Saprissa), Marco Urena (Los Angeles FC/USA)

Serbia full squad:

Goalkeepers: Vladimir Stojkovic (Partizan Belgrade), Predrag Rajkovic (Maccabi Tel Aviv/ISR), Marko Dmitrovic (Eibar/ESP)

Defenders: Aleksandar Kolarov (Roma/ITA), Antonio Rukavina (Villarreal/ESP), Milan Rodic (Red Star Belgrade), Branislav Ivanovic (Zenit Saint Petersburg/RUS), Uros Spajic (Anderlecht/BEL), Milos Veljkovic (Werder Bremen/GER), Dusko Tosic (Besiktas/TUR), Nikola Milenkovic (Fiorentina/ITA)

Midfielders: Nemanja Matic (Manchester United/ENG), Luka Milivojevic (Crystal Palace/ENG), Marko Grujic (Cardiff City/ENG), Dusan Tadic (Southampton/ENG), Andrija Zivkovic (Benfica/POR), Filip Kostic (Hamburg/GER), Nemanja Radonjic (Red Star Belgrade), Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (Lazio/ITA), Adem Ljajic (Torino/ITA)

Forwards: Aleksandar Mitrovic (Fulham/ENG), Aleksandar Prijovic (PAOK Thessaloniki/GRE), Luka Jovic (Eintracht Frankfurt/GER)