Serbia’s Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the group E match between Costa Rica and Serbia at the 2018 soccer World Cup in the Samara Arena in Samara, Russia, Sunday, June 17, 2018. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)

Aleksander Kolarov’s stunning free-kick saw Serbia win 1-0 against Costa Rica in the opening game of Group E at the 2018 Russia World Cup.

In a lively game at the Cosmos Arena in Samara, Serbia’s captain struck an unstoppable 30-yard free-kick to kick off his side’s World Cup campaign with all three points.

With Brazil and Switzerland the other teams in Group E, it was crucial for both nations to start their campaign with a positive result.

Costa Rica, who were quarter-finalists at the 2014 World Cup, started brightly as striker Marco Urena saw his one-on-one effort saved by Serbia ‘keeper Vladimir Stojkovic three minutes in.

Shortly after, centre-back Giancarlo Gonzalez had two good chances, the best coming after 12 minutes as he skied a free header from the edge of the six-yard box.

Despite Serbia controlling possession for most of the first half, Costa Rica continued to fashion the best chances, as Urena and Francisco Calvo both fired off target just before half-time.

At the start of the second period, Serbia instantly posed more of a threat, as striker Aleksander Mitrovic was denied one-on-one by Keylor Navas.

Serbia would not have to wait much longer for the breakthrough, when Costa Rica’s David Guzman pulled back Mitrovic to give Serbia a free-kick after 56 minutes.

The Serbian left-back and captain then curled a sensational strike into the top corner from an acute angle, leaving Real Madrid’s Navas with no chance.

Chasing an equaliser, Costa Rica struggled to create chances and Serbia looked more likely to score again, as Filip Kostic and Mitrovic both squandered chances in the final 15 minutes.

VAR was called into action in stoppage time, firstly when Nemanja Matic clashed with the Costa Rica bench while trying to take a quick throw-in.

Aleksander Prijovic then saw yellow after a VAR referral for his flailing hand in Johnny Acosta’s face.