Costa Rica 0-1 Serbia Player Ratings: Duarte impresses

An Aleksandar Kolarov free-kick gave Serbia a 1-0 win over Costa Rica in the Russia 2018 Group E opener – but how did players on both teams perform? Here’s our Player Ratings.

Costa Rica

Keylor Navas – won 17 trophies in his career including three successive Champions Leagues with Real Madrid and it showed. Made a good save from Milinkovic-Savic in the first half, then Mitrovic in the second. 8

Cristian Gamboa – hasn’t kicked on in his club career since the last World Cup. Supposedly somebody who might have offered a bit of pace and width but he stayed surprisingly deep for much of the contest. Defended well when called upon but one was left wanting more. 4
Johnny Acosta – did well under Oscar Ramirez for Alajuelense over a number of years and his experience was valuable. Despite not being the biggest and picking up a slight knock in the first half, he defended his back-post stoutly. 6
Giancarlo Gonzalez – some nice passes into forward areas early on and possibly should have scored a first half header. Guilty of letting Mitrovic get free on one or two occasions. 5
Oscar Duarte – a defender by name but was at times Costa Rica’s most creative player. Linked up very nicely with Calvo down the left and was always comfortable moving not just into the opposing half, but even into the final third. An impressive performance. 8
Francisco Calvo – the captain of Minnesota United showed a willingness to get forward. Preferred to roam inside, as we saw for one shot that went just wide of the near-post, because his intelligence is a bigger skill of his than his athleticism. 6

Celso Borges – has made more appearances, 111, than any Costa Rica player and his experience showed, especially during a spell of probing possession midway through the second half. Rarely misplaced a pass and it would have been nice to see him trusted to use the ball well more often; when was involved, his teammates benefited. 6
David Guzman – more ambitious with his passes than Borges. Played some excellent through balls early on that linked Costa Rica’s play. Once the team dropped deeper and started going longer, he became stuck in something of a no-man’s land. 6

Bryan Ruiz – got into some nice areas early on, playing one or two clear through balls but soon faded. Once he had to scrap for loose balls, he was effectively out of the game: this isn’t a player who will relish physical encounters. 3
Marco Urena – came off the bench to score against Uruguay in Costa Rica’s last World Cup, but this was a less memorable appearance. Denied by Stojkovic when he looked bright early on; although a willing runner, Urena doesn’t have the raw pace to reach aimless passes, so he needed much better service. 3
Johan Venegas – showed good movement early on and caused problems for Ivanovic down the left. After the first 15 minutes, he didn’t receive as much service as he might have liked due to the inaccuracy of the forward passing. 3

Christian Bolanos (on 60) – showed a willingness to get involved and picked up different positions but wasn’t quite able to cut Serbia open. 5

Joel Campbell (on 67) – tried to commit defenders more than starting Costa Ricans, but there was an element of rustiness about the way he did it, partly due to the lack of recent game time. 5

Daniel Colindres (on 73) – didn’t quite make the impression he might have hoped for. 4


Vladimir Stojkovic – didn’t have to work too hard for his clean sheet here, after making himself big to deny Urena early on. 6

Branislav Ivanovic – picked for his leadership skills as the most experienced player in the squad, with 103 caps, but he lacked the pace one would ideally like from a right-back, aside from once burst on the quarter-hour mark. That was a real problem for Serbia, especially in the embryonic phases of play. 3
Nikola Milenkovic – his height gave him a huge advantage when defending his own box and attacking that of the opposition. Handled Urena well during some sticky early moments. 8
Dusko Tosic – did well in the first half, even battling on following a slight knock, as one might expect from an experienced, battle-hardened campaigner who has played for Red Star Belgrade and Besiktas. 8
Aleksandr Kolarov – produced moments of excellent quality, including one fine ball to Mitrovic in the first half and of course that free-kick to win it. However, his lack of pace was at times problematic for Serbia when they were trying to create space in the middle third. 6

Nemanja Matic – his strong physical qualities might have been part of what forced Costa Rica back after the first quarter of an hour, he lacked the mobility to make third-man runs. A real asset when they were defending their lead. 6

Luka Milivojevic – a little too similar to Matic for them to be an effective combination, especially in circumstances in which Serbia are expected to call the shots. Both are capable of picking a pass but neither like breaking into forward areas. 5

Dusan Tadic – found good form at Southampton in the latter stages of the 2017-18 campaign and continued that here. Although he was skilful he didn’t have the confidence to take on Calvo in a direct run, so his main aim was often to win at set piece to allow the powerful operators to get into the box. 7
Sergej Milinkovic-Savic – tipped to be the next big thing in Serbia and here, we saw flashes of why the creative maestro is valued so highly at Lazio. Got close to Mitrovic in the attacking phase and showed nice technique, including one delicious through ball that released the front-man one-on-one early in the second half. 8
Adem Ljalic – his career in Italy has stagnated slightly over the last year or two, but here he showed some creativity and looked confident with both feet. More likely to drift infield than Tadic. 6

Aleksandar Mitrovic – his inability to finish his one-on-one chance means he won’t take the headlines from this match, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a good performance. The target man relieved pressure on his teammates by making key defensive headers, winning free-kicks and he always caused problems at set pieces, which indirectly influenced the way Costa Rica set up. Quiet but useful in equal measure. 7

Filip Kostic (on 70) – normally somebody who likes to attack the flank but here, he had to fulfil a more circumspect role. 5
Antonio Rukavina (on 83)
Aleksandar Prijovic (on 90)