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Serbia captain dedicates World Cup goal to ailing official

June 17, 2018

Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates 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)

SAMARA, Russia (AP) — As Serbia celebrated its 1-0 victory over Costa Rica in the World Cup on Sunday, the celebratory mood briefly turned somber.

Captain Aleksandar Kolarov was named man of the match for his game-winning goal from a free kick early in the second half. But his thoughts turned to Goran Bunjevcevic, sporting director of the Serbian federation, who had a stroke last month and required emergency surgery.

Koralov dedicated both the win and his goal to Bunjevcevic.

“He’s had some health problems. We want to relay this message to him and his family that we are 100 percent behind him,” Koralov said.

Bunjevcevic, 45, played for the national team from 1998-2003, appearing in 16 matches. A defender, he played for Tottenham from 2001-06.

Following his playing career he was sporting director at one of his former teams, Red Star Belgrade, and another Serbian club, Zemun. He took his current post with the Serbian federation in August 2016.

Kolarov’s goal, which curled over the wall in the 56th minute, gave Serbia a 1-0 victory over Costa Rica at Samara Stadium in the team’s opening match in Russia.

It was Serbia’s first World Cup victory since 2010 against Germany in the group stage. Serbia didn’t qualify for the 2014 edition in Brazil.

The team moves on to play Switzerland on Friday in Kaliningrad, and wraps up the group stage in Moscow against Brazil on June 27.

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