Mario Gomez scored the only goal as Germany managed to overcome a defensive Portugal display in a dull affair.
Joachim Loew’s side joined Denmark at the top of Group B, rewarded for taking the game to the opponents, but the Portuguese will be frustrated they did not take a more positive approach to the game.
Gomez’s header with 20 minutes to go gave his side three points, but Paulo Bento’s side should have equalised in a period of play following the opener where their attacking play caused all kinds of problems.
It was clear from early on that Portugal were setting themselves out in way that would challenge the Germans to come out and beat them.
Maybe buoyed by Denmark’s earlier smash-and-grab win over Holland, Bento seemed to count on the individual brilliance of Cristiano Ronaldo to produce something on the counter-attack.
Whatever the Portuguese manager’s motives, it made for a dull spectacle during much of the first half.
Mesut Ozil did his best to feel out an opening or weakness, but the Iberian midfield stayed resolutely blanketed over the space in front of their back four.
Ronaldo produced a flash of quality in the 20th minute to warn Joachim Loew’s team when he jinked past Jerome Boateng and flashed a dangerous cross across the box.
Germany were being frustrated effectively by the defensive tactics, but Lukas Podolski should have done better when skying a Sami Khedira pull-back from 15 yards out.
Despite them giving up the ball for most of the half, Portugal came closest to breaking the deadlock just before half time when Pepe crashed a header against the underside of the bar.
One or two Portuguese players screamed goal but the ball never looked liek it had crossed the line and replays confirmed this.
The second half was a more lively affair and Thomas Mueller worked hard down the right to try and get some service to Mario Gomez in the middle, but the big Bayern Munich striker was always outnumbered.
Portugal held the ball a bit more in the second half but they did not give up the defensive tinge to their game and were guilty of turning down more than one opportunity to attack with greater numbers.
Muller almost provided the ball he had been threatening to on the hour but his flashed cross was inches ahead of Gomez.
This appeared to wake Portugal out of their defensive stupor for a moment and Miguel Veloso played a terrific pass to Ronaldo inside the area, but Boateng recovered with a fantastic last-ditch challenge to block the shot from 12 yeards out.
The game fell into its familiar flow after that and you felt a goalless draw was inevitable, but Gomez had other ideas.
With a little under 20 minutes left, Khedira got possession in an rare amount of space 25 yards out on the right of the area and his cross was deflected on the way to meeting Gomez’s forehead.
Good movement found him the space and his header back across goal was of the highest quality – a fine finish to give the game something it sorely needed.
Most frustratingly, Portugal had no choice but to come out and attack, doing so with great pace and vigour.
Ronaldo pulled across two or three dangerous crosses but they failed to find one of the men charging into the box.
The equaliser nearly came in the 87th minutes when Ronaldo, Portugal; would have no threat without him, pulled back and caused a mix-up but substitute Silvestre Varela could not beat the charging Manuel Neuer.
It was as close as the Portuguese would come to levelling, but the defeat will be a bitter pill to swallow after seeing how effective they were as an attacking force when going behind.
Germany probably deserved the win due to their greater adventure for most of the 90 minutes, but Ronaldo and his teammates will be kicking themselves after witnessing the trouble they cause the German defence once they had become more positive.
A loss, yes, but a similar fate for Holland means Portugal have a chance to learn from their mistakes and use the full force of their attacking array when they meet Denmark on Wednesday.