With games against Brazil and Switzerland lying in wait in Group E, this is a pivotal opening game for both nations to press their credentials to reach the knockout stages.
Costa Rica famously reached the quarter-finals four years ago after topping a group including former winners England, Italy and Uruguay.
However, the Central Americans have only ever gone beyond the group stage once before that – on their first ever appearance at the finals at Italia 90.
Since the break up of the former Yugoslavia, Serbia have been unable to progress past the group stage of a World Cup.
Mladen Krstajic’s side are also the lowest ranked team in the group but look strong in midfield.
Manchester United’s Nemanja Matic, Lazio’s Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and Southampton’s Dusan Tadic are key to their hopes of advancing.
Branislav Ivanovic is set to overtake former Inter Milan midfielder Dejan Stankovic to become Serbia’s most capped player with 104 international appearances.
Ivanovic is likely to start alongside captain Aleksandar Kolarov with Aleksandar Mitrovic deployed as the lone striker.
Real Madrid’s Keylor Navas is expected to start in goal for Costa Rica.
Giancarlo Gonzalez and Oscar Duarte should also be comprised in defence.
FROM COSTA RICA CAMP
Costa Rica coach Oscar Ramirez: “The first match in the World Cup is always crucial.
“When the game starts we will see how to handle Serbia. They will put a lot of pressure on in the first 20 minutes and we need to deal with this with balance and calm nerves.
“Intensity will be key. If we score first or they score first, that is key. I am concerned about this aspect.”
FROM THE SERBIA CAMP
Serbia captain Aleksandar Kolarov: “If we play to our potential, are honest among ourselves, as we have been these three weeks, then we can do something.
“I will tell the younger players to stay calm and enjoy their football because this is a huge opportunity for the 23 of us to represent our country.
“Qualifying for Russia was a great success, we are here on merit, but we are not going to be satisfied merely by being here, we want to go a step further.”
- This will be the first ever encounter between Costa Rica and Serbia.
- Costa Rica have qualified for their fifth World Cup – they have reached the knockout stages in two of their four previous appearances (1990 and 2014).
- Penalty shootouts excluded, Costa Rica were one of only three sides to remain unbeaten in the 2014 World Cup (alongside Germany and Netherlands).
- Costa Rica have kept three clean sheets in their last four World Cup games, that’s more than in their previous 11 games in the competition (2).
- Costa Rica have also won their opening game at the World Cup in three of their previous four appearances, the only exception coming against hosts Germany in 2006 (2-4).
- This will be Oscar Ramírez’s first World Cup as a manager. He played every single minute of Costa Rica’s 1990 World Cup campaign, in what was their first ever appearance in the competition.
- Serbia have lost their opening game by a 1-0 scoreline each time in their last two World Cup appearances.
- Having inherited Yugoslavia and Serbia & Montenegro’s records, this is Serbia’s 12th World Cup participation, although it will be only their second tournament as an independent nation following 2010.
- Serbia have failed to reach the knockout stages in their last two World Cup appearances (2006, 2010). In fact, over their last two participations, Serbia have lost five of their six group games (W1), their only win coming against Germany in 2010 (1-0).
- Their best performance in the competition dates back to 1930 and 1962 when Yugoslavia finished fourth. Since then, whether as Yugoslavia or Serbia, they have never gone further than the quarter-finals.
- Only Joshua Kimmich (9) provided more assists than Serbia’s Dusan Tadic (7) in the European qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup.
- Slavoljub Muslin was Serbia’s manager in the entire World Cup 2018 qualifying phase, leading them to top spot in their group, before he left in October 2017 and was replaced by caretaker manager Mladen Krstajic.