Thomas Mueller’s hat-trick inspired Germany to a ruthless 4-0 mauling of 10-man Portugal in their opener on Monday, hammering home their credentials as serious title contenders in Brazil and shattering Cristiano Ronaldo’s dreams of dominating the World Cup.
Billed as a clash of European heavyweights, the Germans ignored the soaring Salvador heat to deliver a sizzling attacking display against a disappointing Portugal, effectively ending the group G game as a contest by half-time.
Portugal could not cope with the pace and movement of their much more organised and fitter-looking opponents and were 3-0 down by the interval as Mueller, marking his 50th international, scored either side of a thumping Mats Hummels header.
“It’s glorious to score three goals in a game like that,” said Mueller.
“That doesn’t happen every day, but I have had a good run at World Cups and I wanted to pick up where I left off,” added Mueller, who burst on to the international stage at the 2010 showpiece where he finished joint top-scorer with five goals.
“We got into the match really well and had some half chances, then suddenly we were ahead 2-0. In heat like this a lead like that is a great advantage.”
WATCH: Mats Hummels heads in
World Player of the Year Ronaldo stormed past reporters after tasting defeat for the fourth consecutive time against Germany.
“Three players are down to talk to the media and I am not one of them,” said the 29-year-old Portuguese captain, who played the full 90 minutes despite recent injuries.
WATCH: Thomas Mueller scores his second
Portugal coach Paulo Bento had feared the likely impact of the lunch-time heat, but his game plan failed to match the Germans went for a fast start before energy levels fell, with interchanging forwards Mario Goetze, Mueller and Mesut Ozil causing havoc.
“We dominated the first half in the midfield with fast through balls to the strikers. We were clinical in finishing our chances, we had four goals from about six chances,” Germany coach Joachim Loew said.
“Thomas did really well up front and he constantly tore holes in the defence. He is a very unorthodox player and you can’t really predict his lines of running, but he has one aim and that is ‘how can I score a goal?’
“That makes him so dangerous, especially in the box.”
WATCH: Thomas Mueller completes his hat-trick
For Portugal, who had only conceded once in their previous six World Cup group games, the defeat left qualification in the balance with games against the US and Ghana to come.
“We have to analyse this in all calm,” Bento said.
“The game was over by half-time and although we tried a bit in the second half, we didn’t show much either. Germany controlled the game by holding the ball and the two decisions (penalty and red card) threw us out of balance.”
In their 100th World Cup match, the first team to reach the milestone, Germany were in the mood to party and went 1-0 up on 12 minutes through a Mueller penalty after the clever Goetze wriggled away from Joao Pereira and was hauled down.
Hummels, who later limped off with an injury, powered home the second from a corner on 32 minutes before Mueller stole in ahead of a sleepy Bruno Alves to smash in the third in first-half stoppage-time.
The task was made even harder for Portugal 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 pushing his head into the German’s as he sat on the ground.
Reuters, Agence France-Presse