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

Germany supporters in the Brazilian city of Salvador celebrate a 4-0 victory over Portugal in their first match of the 2014 FIFA World Cup on Monday, June 16th. Video: Reuters


Germany 4 Portugal 0

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.

The Germans, meanwhile, were biding their time. Müller was ostensibly the team’s lead striker but there was so much movement that the Portuguese back four seemed to be constantly chasing its collective tail. Pepé, in particular, had had a nightmare trying to counter the runs of the Bayern Munich player.

Eventually, it seemed, he had enough for having clearly caught the German in the face he returned to remonstrate over the amount the 24 year-old had made of it. At that point he went head to head with his opponent and once there was contact, which there was, just about, he was always going to be on his way.

Reduced to 10 men and needing to chase pretty hard if they were to get anything out of the game, the Portuguese were now hampered by the need to drop Raul Meireles into central defence. Whatever slim hope there was of Bento cooking up a plan to save the day, though, was completely shattered on the stroke of half time when Götze’s low drive was stopped but certainly not clearly by Bruno Alves who then couldn’t react quickly enough to prevent Müller poking home his second from the middle of the area.

He completed his hat-trick courtesy of another gift, with Rui Patricio spilling an Andre Schürrle cross from the right for the striker to tap home, but by then it was all a little academic, for the Germans had moved back down through the gears somewhat and though they were still creating chances, there was an understandable lack of urgency about them being missed.

Late on, the Portuguese improved and even managed a chance or two with a Ronaldo free finally forcing Manuel Neuer into a save. They should have had a penalty of their own when Benedikt Howedes caught Eder but there was not enough really to generate a whole lot of optimism that they can bounce back from this the way they did at Euro 2012 after losing their opener to the same opponents.

The main concerns for the Germans were a second half injury to Hummels that looked as though it might keep him out of the next game and the fear that this really isn’t representative of the tougher challenges to come.

Their defence was barely tested and still might have conceded from the spot. Their attack, though seriously impressive, will not have things so easy when the latter part of this tournament comes around. As Müller said afterwards about his own goals, though: “They were good!”

GERMANY: 1 Manuel Neuer; 20 Jerome Boateng, 17 Per Mertesacker, 5 Mats Hummels (21 Shkodran Mustafi, 73 mins), 4 Benedikt Höwedes; 6 Sami Khedira, 16 Philipp Lahm, 18 Toni Kroos; 13 Thomas Müller (10 Lukas Podolski, 81 mins), 8 Mesut Özil (9 André Schürrle, 63 mins), 19 Mario Götze.

PORTUGAL: 12 Rui Patrício; 21 João Pereira, 2 Bruno Alves, 3 Pepe , 5 Fabio Coentrao (19 Andre Almeida, 65 mins); 8 João Moutinho, 4 Miguel Veloso (13 Ricardo Costa, 46 mins), 16 Raul Meireles; 17 Nani, 9 Hugo Almeida (11 Éder, 28 mins), 7 Cristiano Ronaldo. Sent off: Pepe, 37 mins. Yellow card: Pereira.


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