Germany’s Thomas Mueller celebrates one of his three goals in Monday’s 4-0 victory against European rival Portugal. (Reuters)
SALVADOR, Brazil — Thomas Mueller’s hat-trick inspired Germany to a ruthless 4-0 mauling of 10-man Portugal in their World Cup opener on Monday, 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.
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.
IRAN 0, NIGERIA 0: Nigeria and Iran, each without a World Cup win since 1998, extended their runs with a goalless Group F draw on Monday, the first stalemate of the tournament and a disappointing game at odds with everything that has gone before in Brazil.
African champions Nigeria would have expected to chalk up a win over the Asian qualifiers, with tougher games against Argentina and Bosnia to come, but created little in a game desperately short on goalmouth action.
Iran had not previously kept a clean sheet in their three finals appearances, but their packed defence worked overtime to restrict Nigeria to a few half-chances and long-range shots.
Iran, whose only previous win came against the United States in 1998, went closest to a goal when Nigeria keeper Vincent Enyeama produced a sharp save to beat out Reza Ghoochannejhad’s header from a corner midway through the first half.