SALVADOR Brazil (Reuters) – Thomas Mueller’s hat-trick inspired Germany to a ruthless 4-0 mauling of 10-man Portugal in their World Cup opener yesterday, hammering home their credentials as serious title contenders in Brazil.
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 halftime.
Portugal could not cope with the pace and movement of their much more organized 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.
“Three goals in one match, in the opening match against such an opponent is just great,” Mueller, whose side are bidding to end a 18-year title drought, told reporters.
“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.”
Portugal coach Paulo Bento had feared the likely impact of the lunchtime heat, but his game plan failed to match the Germans’ who went for a fast start before energy levels fell, with interchanging forwards 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 told a news conference.
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 Mario 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, top scorer at the 2010 World Cup, stole in ahead of a sleepy Bruno Alves to smash in the third in first-half stoppage-time.