A complete German attacking performance, featuring the tournament’s first hat trick, sent them back to base camp with an excellent 4-0 win against Portugal in Salvador. A sending off incurred by Portugal’s Pepe – in which neither Pepe nor Thomas Müller covered themselves in glory – and an injury to Mats Hummels may have dampened the enthusiasm to which this result will have been greeted in Germany, however.
Story of the game
Germany started on the front foot, probing quickly down the left as Bayern forward Mario Götze whipped a ball in from the left, only to find no German heads in the area. Minutes later, it was Portugal’s turn to take lead, Cristiano Ronaldo taking advantage of a Philipp Lahm mistake in central midfield, only to fire over wildly from just outside the area. A second notable mistake in the space of 5 minutes followed, Portugal goalkeeper Rui Patrício misplacing a simple clearance, leaving Real Madrid midfielder Sami Khedira with an open net from around 35 yards. Fortunately for Patrício, Khedira seemed to take the opportunity as a chance for a sighter, fizzing an effort just past the post. It was a poor effort at what was an open goal, but nevertheless, Germany didn’t let it get to them.
Minutes later, they were in front anyway. Some lovely interplay between Khedira, Boateng and Özil down the right hand side gave Mario Götze a glorious chance in the box, but Götze was hauled down to the ground by João Pereira, who was lucky to escape a red card. Make no bones about it, Götze had a goalscoring opportunity denied by Pereira, who was lucky to receive a yellow from referee Milorad Mazic. Thomas Müller stepped up to take the penalty for Germany, and duly slotted home low to the right of Rui Patrício. His sixth goal at World Cups, having won the Golden Boot in 2010 – and also Germany’s first World Cup goal from the spot within 90 minutes since 1994.
A great start from Germany, and right away they set about bolstering their advantage. Götze tried to trouble the Portuguese defensive line again but this time, they were equal; Pepe dealing with the young attacker well. That said, it wasn’t all their way – Nani troubled German full back for the day Benedikt Höwedes before firing a shot with the outside of his right boot just past Manuel Neuer’s crossbar. Things were about to get worse for Portugal, however. Frontman Hugo Almeida went down holding his thigh in agony, meaning he had to be replaced by Eder of Braga – a strong striker originally from Guinea-Bissau.
Moments later, the misery was compounded; Germany went further into the lead thanks to some scintillating play. Mesut Özil was threaded in by a long, accurate ball from the back, but didn’t back himself to take the shot on first time – instead cutting inside and squaring to Thomas Müller, whose poor effort was deflected wide for a corner. From the resulting dead ball, however, Borussia Dortmund centre back Mats Hummels rose the highest to make it 2-0 to the Germans, a fine header which gave Rui Patrício no chance. Not long later, Thomas Müller got entangled with Real Madrid defender Pepe, seemingly taking offence to a slight brush by Pepe’s arm on his face, holding it as if he’d received a heavy blow. Pepe, worried that the referee would send him off for this, decided to make the Serbian ref’s decision easier by headbutting Müller in the face. In fairness, neither were covered in glory, and perhaps a fairer decision would have been to send both off, but nevertheless, it was only Pepe who saw red. Thomas Müller’s game was about to get much, much better.
Thomas Müller was at the centre of the action again in the first half, blocking a Bruno Alves clearance and driving a left footed shot at Patricio – the Portuguese goalkeeper seeing the ball balloon off of his legs and into the net. 3-0, and Germany were cruising into the break.
The second half was altogether less eventful than the first. Germany continued to push for a fourth – one which, on balance of play, was not entirely undeserved – but were clearly conserving energy for a showdown with Ghana on Saturday. Portugal knew that, with 10 men and at 3-0 down, there was very little hope of getting back into the game and so were very much in damage limitation mode.
Andre Schürrle came on halfway through the second half as a substitute and quickly began to affect the game. Not long after coming on, he made a great impact, running free from the Portuguese defence and squaring to Mario Götze, who, typically of Germany’s game, didn’t take the shot on the first time and instead cut inside and had a shot deflected wide. Further bad news was to follow for Portugal, as they lost Fábio Coentrão to what seemed like a horrible injury, overstretching for the ball. Germany also added to their already lengthy injury list, Mats Hummels falling awkwardly on his knee in a challenge with Eder.
The icing on the cake was to be added 10 minutes from time; the excellent Thomas Müller tapping in from a couple of yards after a lovely Andre Schürrle ball in. Germany were running riot, and at 4-0 continued their incredible World Cup record in recent times – scoring 15 goals and conceding just 4 in their past 5 games, and indeed equalling their excellent start at 2010 (then beating Australia 4-0).
Overall, though, a pleasing display from Joachim Löw whose selection of 4 centre backs was questioned before the game, but turned out to be not too important as the attacking players took the lead while Portugal looked toothless up front. Portugal’s loss has come at a cost – a suspended Pepe, as well as injuries to Almeida and Coentrão – which will make the games against the USA and Ghana much more important to them than perhaps first figured.
Player ratings (out of 10)
Manuel Neuer – 6: Did very little all game, an untroubling game for Neuer. Made a good save from a Ronaldo free kick at the death.
Jerome Boateng – 6: Solid if uninspiring. Helped set some attacks going down the right hand side, and dealt well with Ronaldo when called upon.
Per Mertesacker – 6: Not particularly noticeable – again, not busy, but did nothing wrong either.
Mats Hummels – 7: A solid defensive display enhanced with a goal, Hummels was a general nuisance to Portugal from most set plays until going off early, injured.
Benedikt Höwedes – 6: Didn’t look confident enough as an attacking full back, which isn’t surprising when you consider he isn’t a full back. Didn’t do badly defensively.
Sami Khedira – 7: Missing a sitter in the opening ten minutes aside, Khedira controlled the game in Germany’s midfield.
Philipp Lahm – 5: Wasn’t his usual neat, tidy and effective self in midfield – gave the ball away too many times and added little going forward.
Thomas Müller – 8: Müller had an excellent game, scoring his first international hat trick which took him to 8 World Cup goals – his scrap with Pepe tarnished his performance, though.
Mesut Özil – 7: Showed a willingness to get in behind and played well throughout, but left the field before he could make a real impact.
Toni Kroos – 7: Played some of Germany’s best passes, and had no real weak areas throughout. A good performance.
Mario Götze – 6: His off the ball runs were useful for Germany, but his awful finishing was more of a hindrance than a hand for his country.
Andre Schürrle – 7: Was head and shoulders above the rest of his team during his cameo appearance, making some excellent runs and assisting the goal.
Shkodran Mustafi – 6: Came on for the injured Hummels, but was shifted out of position to right back. Didn’t have much to do.
Lukas Podolski – 5: Didn’t have enough time to make an impact.
Rui Patrício – 5: Should probably have done better on Müller’s second, but didn’t deserve to concede four goals, all things considered.
João Pereira – 5: Strong performance by Pereira, but should have troubled the German left flank more than he did – Höwedes was there for the taking. Gave away the penalty.
Pepe – 4: The only remarkable thing Pepe did in his stint on the field was get sent off – otherwise not a bad performance, but ultimately cost Portugal a chance at coming from behind.
Bruno Alves – 5: Gave away the ball for Müller’s second goal, but otherwise was okay.
Fábio Coentrão – 5: Not his best game, went off injured before he had a chance to affect proceedings positively.
Miguel Veloso – 4: Replaced at half time, and you can see why – had no impact whatsoever.
Raul Meireles – 6: Not bad from the former Chelsea man, gave Germany a good midfield battle but couldn’t link defence to attack effectively.
João Moutinho – 6: One of Portugal’s better performers; not a weak link but not a strong one, either.
Nani – 5: Missed a good chance and managed to tackle Coentrão at one point – poor.
Hugo Almeida – 6: Went off early injured, unfair to judge.
Cristiano Ronaldo – 6: Tried very hard but his day was summed up when he hit the one man wall of Philipp Lahm from a free kick.
Eder – 7: Probably Portugal’s best player, Eder hassled the German defence and even had the ball in the net at one point – unfortunately quite a while after the referee had blown for a free kick.
Ricardo Costa – 6: Bolstered the Portuguese defence at half time following the sending off of Pepe, didn’t put a foot wrong.
Andre Almeida – 6: Didn’t have enough time to affect proceedings too much, changed forced somewhat by Coentrão’s injury.
Man of the Match
Thomas Müller – the German attacker started where he left off in South Africa, scoring their first goal of the tournament for the second time running. Now a bit more of a household name across the world, it was less of a surprise to see him so prominently on the scoresheet – but a hat trick is a great return for anyone, let alone someone who’s not too prolific domestically. Playing as the focal point of the three-pronged German attack, Müller tore the Portuguese defence apart at times, especially in the first half.