Mladen Krstajic faces a tall task as he looks to lead Serbia to its first Round of 16 appearance in World Cup history – and avoiding a letdown in the tournament opener is critical as the Serbians face Costa Rica in their Group E curtain raiser Sunday.
Serbia has just one World Cup victory on its ledger since the dissolution of Yugoslavia, but is in good position to double that tally against a Costa Rican team in tough to duplicate its success of four years ago.
World Cup 2018: Costa Rica vs. Serbia Odds and Betting Analysis
Moneyline: Serbia -117
Date: Sunday, June 17, 8 a.m. ET
Samara Arena, Samara, Russia
The Serbians are considerable favourites in this one, having rolled through qualifying with just one defeat in 10 games. They scored 20 goals over that span, and should be able to flex their offensive muscles against an overmatched Costa Rican squad; consider a 2-0 Serbia victory at +601, or even a 3-0 triumph at +1,356. A matchbet/total combination of Serbia and over 1.5 goals pays out at +142, and represents a sneaky good play given the gulf between the teams.
Oddsmakers aren’t convinced, however, that Serbia will unleash an offensive barrage; either that, or they don’t believe Costa Rica will put up much of a fight. The under-2.5-goal play is a whopping -192, compared to +150 for the over; the Costa Ricans managed just 14 goals in 10 qualifying games, with four of those coming in a stunning win over the United States. So it’s no surprise that a Costa Rica scoreless effort pays a rather paltry -115.
The Costa Ricans shocked the football world in 2014, not only surviving the Group of Death but reaching the Round of 8 before ultimately falling short. A similar result in Russia would be just as stunning, simply because this team lacks the offensive weaponry to keep up with the rest of the teams in the group. Marco Urena has the best odds of finding the back of the net for the Costa Ricans at +282; only one other player – Johan Vanegas (+299) – is below +300.
Aleksandar Mitrovic is the player to watch for the Serbian side; the 23-year-old is a heavy favourite to lead the team in goals and is a reasonable +148 play to convert against the Costa Ricans. Dusan Tadic (+313) is a decent underdog option with 53 international caps on his resume, while Filip Kostic (+314) is also in the mix after scoring the first two international goals of his career during World Cup qualifying.
Costa Rica vs. Serbia Prediction
Serbia 2, Costa Rica 0: The Serbians will likely dominate possession and generate enough scoring chances to put a pair of goals past the Costa Ricans; they’ll likely face little pressure at the other end of the pitch en route to an easy win.