An audacious free kick from Aleksandar Kolarov secured Serbia's victory against Costa Rica in the opening match of World Cup Day 4 in Samara.
Serbia defeated Costa Rica on Sunday in Samara thanks to a fantastic piece of magic from its captain Aleksandar Kolarov, whose free kick was too much for Real Madrid and Tico stopper Keylor Navas.
It was an exciting game, where both teams delivered a good start to Day 4, which ultimately awarded three points to Mladen Krstajic's side.
The match started at rapid pace as both teams had golden opportunities in less than two minutes, ending up in the hands of Keylor Navas and Vladimir Stojkovic. LAFC's Marco Ureña was causing all sorts of problems as the lone strike, splitting up the center backs to make some room, but equally on the other side, Aleksandar Kolarov pushed on the Serbian left side with a long attempt. However, it remained scoreless in the first stages.
In the 11th minute, Giancarlo Gonzalez had a great chance in the box to make it 1-0 as he beat his opponent in the air but couldn't keep his header down.
Equally on the 15th, Keylor Navas had to push away a cross from Branislav Ivanovic to keep it 0-0. Things also got physical as Francisco Calvo received a yellow card after an awful challenge.
In the 26th minute, Navas came to the rescue once again as Serbia missed a great chance to take the lead from six yards out.
In the 35th minute, Southampton's Dusan Tadic, who was Serbia's best player up to this point, won a free-kick on the right-hand side but in the end Navas cleared it out of the danger zone once the ball came in.
A great chance in the 41st minute found Calvo play a great one-two and take his shot outside the box but just going wide. Los Ticos were gaining confidence as the first 45 was coming to a close. An audacious attempt from Sergej Milinkovic-Savic was called offside, but regardless, it was a great attempt and stopped once again by Navas. What's more, at second glance, it appeared the Serb wasn't even offside.
The first half concluded as an exciting battle with no goals.
The second half continued with the same pace as Tadic, once again, pulled the strings on the right but carefully watched by Costa Rica's defensive unit. In the 50th minute, Keylor Navas made an incredible save to deny a certain goal.
But shortly after, Kolarov's incredible free kick was too much for the Real Madrid stopper and it was 1-0 to Serbia.
With 20 minutes to go, Costa Rica wasa awarded a free-kick but Joel Campbell's in-swinger was easily cleared away. As Costa Rica kept pushing for that equalizer, the Central-Americans were leaving themselves open to a second goal, which would have essentially killed the game. Campbell, who had replaced Ureña earlier in the half was working hard to hold the ball in the final third, but Serbia's backline were disciplined enough to protect the lead.
In the 86th minute, Aleksandar Mitrovic was tackled in the box, which looked like a penalty at first glance but the referee was having none of it. In the end, Serbia held on to a precious victory thanks to a fantastic piece of magic from its captain.
Here were the lineups for both sides:
Here are the rosters for both nations:
Goalkeepers: Leonel Moreira (Herediano), Keylor Navas (Real Madrid), Patrick Pemberton (LDA)
Defenders: Johnny Acosta (Aguilas Dorados), Francisco Calvo (Minnesota United), Oscar Duarte (Espanyol), Cristian Gamboa (Celtic), Giancarlo Gonzalez (Bologna), Ronald Matarrita (NYCFC), Bryan Oviedo (Sunderland), Ian Smith (Norrkoping), Kendall Waston (Vancouver Whitecaps)
Midfielders: Randall Azofeifa (Herediano), Christian Bolanos (Saprissa), Celso Borges (Deportivo La Coruna), Daniel Colindres (Saprissa), David Guzman (Portland Timbers), Bryan Ruiz (Sporting Lisbon), Yeltsin Tejeda (Lausanne), Rodney Wallace (NYCFC)
Forwards: Joel Campbell (Real Betis), Marco Urena (LAFC), Johan Venegas (Saprissa)
Manager: Oscar Ramirez
Goalkeepers: Vladimir Stojkovic (Partizan Belgrade), Predrag Rajkovic (Maccabi Tel Aviv), Marko Dmitrovic (Eibar)
Defenders: Aleksandar Kolarov (AS Roma), Branislav Ivanovic (Zenit St. Petersburg), Dusko Tosic (Guangzhou R&F), Antonio Rukavina (Villarreal), Milos Veljkovic (Werder Bremen), Milan Rodic (Red Star Belgrade), Uros Spajic (Krasnodar), Nikola Milenkovic (Fiorentina)
Midfielders: Nemanja Matic (Manchester United), Luka Milivojevic (Crystal Palace), Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (Lazio), Marko Grujic (Liverpool), Adem Ljajic (Torino), Dusan Tadic (Southampton), Filip Kostic (Hamburg SV), Andrija Zivkovic (Benfica), Nemanja Radonjic (Red Star Belgrade)
Forwards: Aleksandar Mitrovic (Newcastle United), Aleksandar Prijovic (PAOK Salonika), Luka Jovic (Benfica)
Manager: Mladen Krstajic