|Thomas Mueller celebrates his hat-trick with
Sami Khedira, on Monday
Salvador: Thomas Mueller’s hat-trick inspired Germany to a 4-0 mauling of 10-man Portugal in their opening World Cup Group G match, here on Monday.
The Germans delivered a sizzling display that underlined their tag as strong title contenders and the match, billed as a clash of European heavyweights, was over as a contest by halftime. Two Mueller goals and a thumping Mats Hummels header blew away a Portugal side whose misery was compounded by a needless 37th-minute red card for Pepe.
The defender, furious at what he felt was “simulation” by Mueller following a slight collision between the two, was sent off for headbutting the German as he sat on the ground.
In their 100th World Cup match, the first team to reach the milestone, Germany were in the mood to party in the sapping Salvador sunshine and went ahead after 12 minutes through Mueller. He converted the penalty after Mario Goetze was hauled down.
Hummels powered home the second from a corner in the 32nd minute before Mueller, top scorer at the World Cup four years ago, stole in ahead of a sleepy Bruno Alves to smash in the third in first-half stoppage-time.
The interchanging attack of Goetze, Mueller and Mesut Ozil bamboozled Portugal, whose talisman Cristiano Ronaldo was left a frustrated observer for most part of the match. His best moment was a late long-range free kick, which was parried by Manuel Neuer.
With German Chancellor Angela Merkel watching in the crowd, Mueller completed the first hat-trick of the tournament after 78 minutes, prodding home a spilled Andre Schuerrle cross and extending his country’s run of having won every opening World Cup match since 1990.
The demolition will send a strong message to Germany’s rival title contenders in Brazil and left Portugal looking nervously at qualification with games against the US and Ghana to come.
Portugal got no joy out of superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, suffered two injuries to key players, and Pepe saw red just before half-time. The Germans, for their part, were in supreme form, scoring almost at will.
Portugal had the first chance of the game in sunny Salvador, but Ronaldo’s effort from a tight angle was a false dawn. The Germans were in total control and soon surged into attack.
Portuguese ’keeper Rui Patricio played the ball out of his area, gifting it to Real Madrid midfielder Sami Khedira. But Khedira missed what could have been a easy goal.
Minutes later, however, the Germans got their first goal. Goetze was too quick and too clever for Joao Pereira, who resorted to dragging him down in the area. Mueller stepped up to convert the spot-kick low and to his left, sending the German fans in the stadium into delirium.
And from then on, there was no looking back for Germany and Portugal looked like mute spectators with very little role to play.
Incisive in attack, Muller and Goetze threatened constantly and Portugal coach Paulo Bento was forced into an early substitution. Ailing striker Hugo Almeida quit the pitch after a collision with Hummels and was replaced by Guinea-Bissau-born new boy Eder, just 21.
Mats Hummels then rose higher than anyone in the penalty area to head home from a corner, in the 32 nd minute.
And things just got worse from there for Portugal as Pepe lost his cool. He head-butted Mueller while the German predator sat on the pitch and was shown a straight red card for his efforts. Mueller exacted revenge by adding his second goal at the death of the opening half, taking advantage of some slack defending and hammered home from near the penalty spot.
Three goals down and a man short, add to that a lacklustre CR7 —Portugal really had no chance in the match.
Things didn’t get much better in the second-half. Mid-way through the period, creative midfielder Fabio Coentrao pulled a hamstring and had to be carried off on a stretcher.
Soon after Hummels was also helped off the pitch after suffering a knee injury. But that didn’t keep the Germans from scoring again. Mueller completed his hat-trick 12 minutes from time, to make it 4-0. Portugal had a late penalty claim denied.
Germany: Manuel Neuer; Jerome Boateng, Mats Hummels (Shkodran Mustafi 73), Per Mertesacker, Benedikt Hoewedes; Sami Khedira, Philip Lahm; Toni Kroos, Mesut Ozil (Andre Schuerrle 63), Mario Goetze; Thomas Mueller (Lukas Podolski 82)
Portugal: Rui Patricio; Joao Pereira, Pepe, Bruno Alves, Fabio Coentrao (Andre Almeida 65); Miguel Veloso (Ricardo Costa 46), Joao Moutinho, Raul Meireles; Cristiano Ronaldo, Hugo Almeida (Eder 28), Nani
Man of the Match: Thomas Mueller (Germany)
Referee: Milorad Mazic (Serbia)