SALVADOR, Brazil – Thomas Mueller picked up where he left off at the World Cup, scoring a hat trick in Germany’s 4-0 victory over 10-man Portugal in the Group G opener on Monday.
Mueller scored five goals at the 2010 World Cup, along with three other players, but he also had three assists and that gave the Bayern Munich forward the honor of being top scorer at the tournament in South Africa.
“To score three goals in the World Cup opener against such an opponent is great,” Mueller said of his performance against Portugal, which was outclassed despite the presence of Cristiano Ronaldo.
Mueller opened the scoring with a penalty kick in the 12th minute. After Mats Hummels’ headed goal in the 32nd minute, Mueller virtually put the match away by adding another shortly before halftime for a 3-0 lead. Mueller added his third goal in the 81st minute.
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“He is such an unorthodox player, as a coach you never know what he is about to do,” Germany coach Joachim Loew said of Mueller. “For opponents, he is very unpredictable. He only has one thought on his mind, and that is to score a goal.”
Ronaldo, Portugal’s standout striker and FIFA’s world player of the year, threatened a few times early in the match but remained largely ineffective. His status was questionable before the match because of a left-knee injury.
Loew commended his players for cutting off Ronaldo’s supply of possession and keeping Portugal’s key player out of the game.
With Chancellor Angela Merkel supporting in the stands — and later congratulating the players in the locker room — the German team celebrated its 100th World Cup match with a rousing victory.
“After 20 minutes, we looked up at the clock and thought it was going to be a long day,” Mueller said. “But we got into the match very well and when you lead by 2-0 in this heat and then even get the third, it was all over.”
Germany always aims to have an impressive start, and it certainly did this time. Four years ago, it started with a 4-0 victory over Australia and reached the semifinals.
What must be a concern for Germany’s opponents is the apparent ease with which Loew’s lineup disposed of the fourth-ranked team in the world. Second-ranked Germany next faces Ghana on Saturday and the United States on June 26.
“The match was over in the first 45 minutes,” Portugal coach Paulo Bento said. “Germany controlled the ball and they surprised us with counterattacking. They scored with great efficiency. They were not so superior as the result showed, and we made bad mistakes. We did not perform as we had expected.”
Portugal was already down 2-0 before Pepe was ejected in the 37th minute for apparently head-butting Mueller when the German player was sitting on the ground.
Nigeria, Iran tie 0-0
CURITIBA, Brazil – Nigeria and Iran delivered the first draw of the tournament as they played to a 0-0 stalemate in their opening match in Group F.
After a first half in which Nigeria failed to capitalize on its dominance, chances were few and far between in the second.
• Brazil won the tournament’s opening match last week against Croatia and on Tuesday will meet Mexico, which beat Cameroon 1-0 in its first Group A game.
Brazil striker Hulk might not start because of a left-leg injury.
Mexico coach Miguel Herrera said he is unlikely to make room for Manchester United striker Javier Hernandez in a starting lineup that won Friday. Hernandez came on in the 74th minute against Cameroon.