Müller grabs hat-trick as Germany thrash Portugal
It’s easy for the Germans in Salvador after Pepé departs early, writes Emmet Malone in Salvador
More than 500 years after the Portuguese first came ashore here in Salvador, their latest assault on Brazil is in danger of not even getting beyond the beach. In the country’s first capital they were swept away in one half every bit as convincingly as Spain had been by the Netherlands on Friday. The margin of Germany’s victory was even the same; the only real difference being that this game was over by the break which was when the Dutch really only started to get going.
All the talk beforehand had been about Ronaldo and the extent to which Portuguese depended on him being at his best. He wasn’t at his best, though, and the rest of the team was poor. In contrast, Thomas Müller sparkled and scored a hat-trick, although the more important impressive thing was the collective performance by a German side that will take heart from this that their long, long run without a major title might finally be about to end.
The early exchanges had been open and even enough, with Ronaldo actually doing enough five minutes in to suggest he was capable of posing a threat. Certainly Jerome Boateng must have been concerned five minutes in and he wasn’t the only one. The Real Madrid star left a couple of Germans for dead before playing a square ball for Hugo Almeida that, though not quite perfect, deserved a bit more in terms of application than the striker seemed capable of giving it.
Almeida was off injured before long, as it happens, while Ronaldo, somewhat surprisingly, stuck around despite limping off the pitch at half-time. Surely playing all 90 minutes of a game that was essentially done and dusted well before the first 45 were up, was not the wisest given how much they clearly need him if they are to somehow salvage top two spot in this group.
That will require some serious improvement, for, while Germany were certainly good here, the Portuguese were poor and are unlikely to be better without Pepé who will be suspended after receiving a red card for a colossally stupid follow up to a foul on Müller. Fabio Coentrao, too, was stretchered away after pulling up mid sprint clutching his groin. Almeida’s absence shouldn’t hurt too much.
Paulo Bento blamed the referee for both the sending off and the earlier penalty which had presented Germany. He was certainly wrong with regard to Pepé and the spot kick merely looked soft. His players were careless to leave Mario Götze in a little space on the edge of the area but what followed when he got the ball and Joao Pereira tried to stop him turning looked like an old fashioned tussle until the midfielder took the opportunity to go down at what looked like a very gentle tug.
Müller stepped up to find the bottom left corner with the spot kick and Mats Hummels made it two just around the half hour mark, brilliantly heading home a corner from the right after Götze’s initial shot had been deflected wide.
By then, Ronaldo looked forlorn, wandering around with Boateng generally close, waiting for passes that rarely came. Nani did go close with a long range strike at one point, but for the most part he and his team mates just squandered what few chances came their way to play their way out of defence.
Joachim Löw had called them the kings of the counterattack before the game but there was little enough to justify the compliment here, at least late on, with Nani making a mess of an attempt to set up Ronaldo on the edge of the area at one stage and Miguel Veloso passing straight to an opponent when things looked to open up in front of him at another.