Aleksandar Kolarov was always confident of making the difference as he lined up what proved to be Serbia’s winning strike in their World Cup opener.
The former Manchester City defender scored a stunning free-kick as his country 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, told FIFA.com: “The free-kick came in a difficult moment in the match 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. We have to be planted firmly on the ground and continue as a team.”
Costa Rica reached the quarter-finals in 2014 but emulating that feat now looks a tall order, with further 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 FIFA rankings. It’s going to be difficult, but I just told my team, ‘This isn’t over’.”
Ramirez admitted his side should have made more of their early chances.
“I think it was a tight match,” he said. “We should have capitalised on our opportunities like they did.
“We had our tactical plan in place and, with the subs, we tried to attack them on the wings. We tried to execute our plan but they managed to score on a set-piece. What can you do?”