Player Report – @S_K_MOORE
The man of the moment, Serbia’s Milinkovic-Savic did not fail to impress in the first group stage outing against Costa Rica.
In what many Lazio and neutral fans alike were excitedly waiting to see, many have heard about the name from the Serie A TIM but have been unable to watch him play. Alongside the likes of Newcastle’s Aleksandar Mitrovic, Crystal Palace’s Luka Milivojevic and Manchester United’s Nemanja Matic (notice the Premier League consistency?), Milinkovic-Savic was a key part of Serbia’s dominance today.
Attacking or defending, the biancocelesti man and Juve, United, and Real target was a real threat that Costa Rica tried to deal with – notice I said ‘tried‘. When winning the ball back inside his half, he was able to push forward springing his teammates in front of him; when opponents set pieces were being whipped in, he was clearing headers; when his wingers got inside the opponents half, he was inside the box being a menace to deal with, due to his physicality and height; when the opportunity arose, we saw that he was not afraid to unleash a shot; and finally when given time and space, his dribbling and ball control allowed him to glide past the Costa Rican defenders.
Personally, I give Milinkovic Savic a 7.3 out of 10 performance rating in his first World Cup match. Though lively and exciting on the ball, as well as calm and relaxed alongside his fellow countrymen, he did happen to make a few mis-passes and mis-shots that could have been put to better use.
After this performance, however, fans can now see why this man has the capability to truly be one of the best in the world – I look forward to seeing what else the midfielder has to offer to this Serbian side in the matches to come.
Tactics – @snhw_
Milinkovic-Savic impressed once again today, as he has done many a time for Lazio. It was his first competitive game for Serbia and he proved what all the fuss is about. Although not getting on the scoresheet in Serbia’s narrow 1-0 win against Costa Rica, he demonstrated both his technical ability and the role he has in Serbia’s World Cup game plan.
Serbia lined up with a 4-4-1-1 which, in reality, blended with elements of a 4-5-1 and a 4-4-2 as the game went on. Sergej Milinkovic-Savic started as a center-forward/attacking midfielder, sitting just behind Mitrovic. He played well in the first half, fashioning a fantastic chance in which, despite being wrongly flagged for offside, he fired an overhead kick towards Keylor Navas.
However, he seemed limited by Costa Rica’s tight defense and it wasn’t until Serbia’s tactic evolved that we truly saw the SMS we know and love.
On Serbia’s attacking moves, Sergej would drift forwards into the box, playing up top with Mitrovic. However, in the second half, Sergej started playing as more of a left-sided central midfielder in a 4-5-1, similarly to how he fits into Lazio’s midfield three. This allowed him to serve more as a playmaker, creating plenty of chances for Mitrovic; who was wasteful. Milinkovic-Savic played countless perfect passes and made use of the scoop pass that we see him do so often for Lazio.