An intriguing matchup between two of Group E’s less-fancied sides kicks off the first Sunday of the World Cup.
Costa Rica were the surprise package in 2014 when they reached the quarter finals, and with a pretty-much identical squad this time around, they will be confident of another strong showing. Their traditional 5-4-1 counter-attacking formation isn’t likely to result in any classic high-scoring games in Russia, but should be enough to keep them competitive ahead of three tough group games.
The first of those is against Serbia, who are in their first World Cup since 2010, and boast a similar sort of defensive system that means that under 1.5 goals has a great chance at 8/5 with Coral. The Serbians favour a tight approach, with Nemanja Matic and Luka Milivojevic - of Manchester United and Crystal Palace respectively - at the base of a midfield that is designed to be tough and compact.
Looking at the sharp end of the pitch and one man who goes into the World Cup in great form is Serbia striker Aleksandar Mitrovic, whose 12 goals in 17 games for Championship side Fulham saw them promoted to the Premier League. Mitro is 6/4 with Betfair to score anytime.
While Serbia’s key players go into the tournament on the back of impressive seasons, the same can’t quite be said for the Costa Ricans. Attacking midfielder Bryan Ruiz has struggled in front of goal for Sporting Lisbon, while Joel Campbell has barely played for Real Betis in La Liga in the last six months. Real Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas is a hero back home but has been shaky between the sticks for Los Blancos this season. A combination of poor form and rustiness could well count against the Central Americans in Samara.
If Serbia can get the best out of Lazio midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic then they will create chances and should find the back of the net. Costa Rica are no longer an unknown quantity so may well find it hard to catch out opponents who now know them well. The Serbia win and clean sheet double looks like a strong bet here, and at 9/5 with Coral, it should be enough to tempt you too.