Costa Rica will kick off their 2018 FIFA World Cup campaign against Serbia on Sunday. THT looks at three players who could make a huge impact in Samara.

Costa Rica and Serbia will go head to head in the first match of the Group E in the 2018 FIFA World Cup this weekend, at the Samara Stadium.

Costa Rica, who took the whole world by surprise four years ago in Brazil, will be hoping to get off to a blazing start once again and script another fairytale in the 21st edition of the tournament. Serbia, on the other hand, are returning to the World Cup after missing out last time, will also be confident of putting on a good showing after their solid qualifying campaign.

Ahead of the Group E opener, here at The Hard Tackle, we look at three players who can prove to be the difference makers on the day.

Sergej Milinkovic-Savic

All eyes will be on Serbia's Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (Photo: ATTILA KISBENEDEK/AFP/Getty Images)

All eyes will be on Serbia’s Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (Photo: ATTILA KISBENEDEK/AFP/Getty Images)

The 23-year-old Serbian midfielder, who plays for Serie A side Lazio, has grown into one of the most promising young stars in Europe over the past couple of seasons and has the likes of Manchester United, Real Madrid and Juventus fighting for his signing.

Coming on the back of a stellar campaign in 2017-18, Milinkovic-Savic will be hoping to carry the same form into the summer’s extravaganza in Russia. Able to play as a No.10, or in a withdrawn role in the centre of the park, the three-time capped Serbian international is a proper goalscoring, box-to-box midfielder who doesn’t shirk away from his defensive responsibilities either.

Milinkovic-Savic is seen as the crux of this Serbian side, around which the team is being built by manager Mladen Krstajic. And despite his limited experience on the international stage, the 23-year-old has the requisite tools to help Serbia in their bid to make a mark at the FIFA World Cup.

Keylor Navas

Costa Rica's Mr.Dependable - Keylor Navas (Photo: GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP/Getty Images)

Costa Rica’s Mr. Dependable – Keylor Navas (Photo: GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP/Getty Images)

The Real Madrid No. 1 is without a doubt the most recognizable and the most experienced player in the Costa Rican squad picked for the tournament by manager Oscar Ramirez. The 31-year-old was one of the key men in Los Ticos’ splendid journey in Brazil four years ago and will once again have a major role to play.

Navas’ performances in the 2014 edition in Brazil earned him a move to Real Madrid, where he has enjoyed huge amount of success. The shot-stopper will be heading into the World Cup after another solid season with the Merengues having played an important hand on the way to winning his third UEFA Champions League trophy with the club.

The 31-year-old’s experience and the winning mentality that he has developed during his time with Madrid is sure to have a positive impact on his teammates, as they prepare to begin their journey in Russia.

Aleksandar Mitrovic

In a good run of form (Photo: JOE KLAMAR/AFP/Getty Images)

In a good run of form (Photo: JOE KLAMAR/AFP/Getty Images)

The promising young striker’s club career with Newcastle United has been marred by disciplinary issues, but he continues to prove his worth on the international stages for Serbia.

Mitrovic was the Eagles’ top goalscorer as they topped Group D of the UEFA qualifiers to enter into the 2018 FIFA World Cup, finishing with six goals. The 23-year-old was loaned out to Fulham in the second half of the 2017-18 campaign, where he starred, netting 12 goals and setting up one more in 17 appearances, helping the Cottagers to a promotion to the Premier League.

The striker’s preparations for the competition have also fared ideally, as he bagged a hat-trick in Serbia’s 5-1 win over Bolivia in their final pre-tournament friendly. With the pace and strength that he possesses and the form that he is in, Mitrovic will prove to be quite a handful for the Costa Rican defence on Sunday.

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