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Jun 16, 2014

Muller stars in rout against Portugal

GermanyGermany
PortugalPortugal
4
0
FT
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Germany's 2010 World Cup Golden Boot winner Thomas Muller started off on the right foot with a hat-trick in a 4-0 win over Portugal.

Germany made a perfect start to their World Cup campaign, as three goals from Thomas Muller saw them ease to a 4-0 victory over 10-man Portugal in their opening match in Group G.

The match started brightly, and Germany might have felt some frustration at failing to take a lead when Sami Khedira, receiving a poor clearance from Portugal goalkeeper Rui Patricio, missed the target with the goalmouth gaping.

Joachim Low's men had little cause to dwell on the miss, however, as moments later, Joao Pereira pulled down Mario Gotze in the area and Bayern Munich teammate Muller stepped up to convert the penalty.

- Delaney: Germany thrash sorry Portugal
Pepe's red card: The world responds ...
- Muller: I didn't influence Pepe red

The Germans were two ahead with a little over a half hour played: After Gotze had seen his shot deflected wide, Mats Hummels rose high to power the ensuing Toni Kroos corner into the back of the net.

Portugal's hopes of salvaging a result receded further in the minutes that followed when Pepe was dismissed for violent conduct, having thrown an arm at Muller before stooping to clash heads with his opponent. Germany then tightened their grip when Muller took advantage of a Bruno Alves error in defence to make it 3-0 just before the break.

Portugal's 10 men struggled to muster a response in the second half, as Cristiano Ronaldo, whose fitness had been cause for concern in the buildup to the game, was forced to play the full 90 minutes, with injuries to Hugo Almeida and Fabio Coentrao leading Paulo Bento to use all three substitutes by the 65th minute.

With a little over 15 minutes to play, Portugal saw a penalty appeal turned down when Eder went down in the area. All hope was extinguished soon afterward, as Muller was able to complete his hat trick with a simple finish after Andre Schurrle's effort was parried into his path.

Portugal face a real test now in a strong group with USA and Ghana, where goal difference is likely to prove crucial. To make matters worse, Coentrao's injury looked nasty.

Strangely, Portugal had dominated the opening exchanges, and Ronaldo inspired the first real chance of note as he played on Almeida, but the Portugal striker's effort was weak and easy for Manuel Neuer to claim.

Neuer then came to the rescue again as Ronaldo threatened once more. Miguel Veloso caught Philipp Lahm in possession and, with the Portuguese outnumbering the German defence, sent Ronaldo racing in on goal, but he hammered his shot straight at Neuer from a tight angle.

After that, however, and partly aided by some shocking defending, Germany assumed the early control.

Khedira had already missed a golden opportunity when Portugal keeper Patricio cleared the ball straight to his feet, and though he was 35 yards out, the Real Madrid midfielder should have done better with the empty goal beckoning.

That was a let-off for Portugal, but Germany were not to be denied.

Pereira pulled back Gotze as he twisted in the box, and the Portuguese defender was lucky to be only booked by Serbian referee Milorad Mazic. Muller did not look for a second as though he would miss the penalty, and he buried it emphatically to put the Germans ahead with 12 minutes gone.

Nani sent a shot skimming over the crossbar as Portugal tried to respond, but it was Germany who struck again.

Gotze had been denied by a last-ditch block after excellent work by Mesut Ozil. But from the corner -- taken by Kroos -- Hummels crashed home a header despite the attention of two defenders.

Eder headed over from a corner as Portugal tried desperately to get back into the game, but then came Pepe's moment of self-destruction.

Muller went down claiming that Pepe's arm had caught him in the face, but the Real Madrid defender's reaction was to push his head against the German forward's. It may have been the lightest of head-butts, but it was pure stupidity from Pepe, who was promptly given his marching orders.

Muller effectively ended any contest just before the break, firing in off Patricio's body as Portugal's defence gave way again.

Ozil was denied a one-on-one with the keeper, with Muller missing a hat trick chance with a header from the rebound.

Portugal had a penalty claim of their own turned down after Benedikt Howedes appeared to catch Eder as they challenged for the rebound from Nani's shot, before Germany finally wrapped it up.

Germany had made heavy weather of getting the fourth goal, Gotze in particular being wasteful, but finally Schurrle crossed low and Patricio merely palmed the ball to Muller to poke home from close range with 12 minutes left.

Ronaldo's influence was strictly limited -- only a blistering free kick right at the final whistle that was brilliantly saved by Neuer hinted at what might have been.

Information from the Press Association was used in this report.

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