Serbia’s midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic takes part in a training session at the Samara Arena in Samara on June 16, 2018 on the eve of the Russia 2018 World Cup Group E football match between Costa Rica and Serbia. MANAN VATSYAYANA / AFP
Serbia coach Mladen Krstajic named Sergej Milinkovic-Savic in the starting XI for his team’s opening World Cup Group E match against Costa Rica in Samara on Sunday.
The 23-year-old Lazio midfielder did not play during Serbia’s successful qualification campaign, with his exclusion cited as one of the main reasons Slavo Muslin was sacked as coach in October last year.
Krstajic, a former Serbian international defender, has called on plenty of experience, though, with former Chelsea centre-back Branislav Ivanovic, Roma defender Aleksandar Kolarov and Manchester United midfielder Nemanja Matic all starting.
Costa Rica, surprise quarter-finalists in Brazil four years ago, have left Arsenal forward Joel Campbell and full-back Bryan Oviedo on the bench.
But Keylor Navas starts in goal, just three weeks after helping Real Madrid lift a third consecutive Champions League title, with Sporting Lisbon winger Bryan Ruiz captaining the side.
Keylor Navas – Johnny Acosta, Giancarlo Gonzalez, Oscar Duarte, Francisco Calvo – Cristian Gamboa, Celso Borges, Bryan Ruiz – David Guzman, Johan Venegas, Marcos Urena
Coach: Oscar Ramirez (CRC)
Vladimir Stojkovic – Dusko Tosic, Branislav Ivanovic, Aleksandar Kolarov – Nikola Milenkovic, Luka Milivojevic, Dusan Tadic, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, Nemanja Matic – Adem Ljajic, Aleksandar Mitrovic
Coach: Mladen Krstajic (SRB)