Belfast Telegraph

Kolarov proves the difference with Serbia off to winning start

Costa Rica 0 Serbia 1

Top boy: Aleksander Kolarov toasts Serbia’s success
Top boy: Aleksander Kolarov toasts Serbia’s success

By Andy Hampson

Aleksandar Kolarov was confident he could make the difference as he lined up what proved to be Serbia's winning strike in their World Cup opener.

Former Manchester City defender Kolarov scored a stunning free kick as Serbia saw off Costa Rica 1-0 in Samara.

Kolarov's 56th-minute effort rewarded Serbia for their overall quality, although Costa Rica were to rue a number of missed opportunities in the first half.

Kolarov, who now plays for Roma, said: "The free kick came in a difficult moment and I knew I could step up and change things, and that's exactly what I did."

Coach Mladen Krstajic was pleased with the mentality of his players, who were strong in possession and continually driven forward by the impressive Sergej Milinkovic-Savic.

"My players had the right attitude and approach - unity," said Krstajic. "We had to be a compact unit in both defence and attack and that's most important.

"I don't deal with statistics, I don't care what happened in the past - what's most important for me is that we played as a team and we were focused."

Costa Rica reached the quarter-finals in 2014 but emulating that feat now looks a tall order with group games against Brazil and Switzerland to come.

Coach Oscar Ramirez is not ready to give up the fight yet, however. He said: "We play against the second and sixth placed teams in the rankings. It's going to be difficult, but I just told my team, 'This isn't over'.

"We tried to execute our plan but they managed to score on a set-piece. What can you do?"

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