Germany kicked off Group G of the 2014 World Cup with style. What was seen as a potential classic before the tournament failed to live up to expectations due to a moment of idiocy, which cost Portugal the match and neutrals, a spectacle.
Pre-match expectations were high for both sides. Germany were handed fitness boosts with Manuel Neuer and captain, Philipp Lahm both passed fit to start. Portugal were perhaps handed the biggest boost with world class front man, Cristiano Ronaldo available to start.The match looked as if it would be a thriller.
The opening ten minutes certainly lived up to their billing. Inside the first four minutes both sides traded shots and forced saves from Manuel Neuer and Rui Patricio respectively. Ronaldo showed early intent with multiple shots, again testing the German keeper.
A mistake from Rui Patricio led to Sami Khedira having an attempt on goal from forty yards but he failed to find the net with an open goal, gaping.
Modern day goalkeepers have to be footballers these days and so do defenders. However there is a time and a place for clever passes and equally there is a place for a good old fashioned, safety first clearance. Patricio tried the clever pass and nearly cost Portugal early on.
After nine minutes both teams looked on the offensive. Mario Gotze was played in by a clever through ball from Mesut Ozil. Only to be brought down by Portugal defender, Joao Pereira. The penalty was duly converted by Thomas Muller.1 0 Germany.
Germany looked threatening however the selection of Philip Lahm as a defensive midfielder was a strange one. He has played for club side, Bayern Munich, in that position but today he gave the ball away cheaply.
Equally the selection of Hugo Almeida up front for Portugal is almost forced upon coach, Paulo Bento. Almeida though has only scored once in three months for Turkish side Besiktas. Not prolific by any stretch of the imagination. People say Bento does not have many options available to him. But why not find a winger or attacking midfielder of quality to play on the left, leaving the very much prolific, Cristiano Ronaldo, free to play up front? He has only scored the fifty-five goals at club level this season. The decision to not play him as the main man, the strike, is bizarre.
Things went from bad to worse for Portugal when on thirty minutes, the impressive Toni Kroos plays in Mesut Ozil who cuts the ball back but Gotze's shot is deflected wide. Mats Hummels scored a powerful header from a Kroos corner to put the Germans 2 0 up.
The game was far from over though. Portugal still looked dangerous on the counter attack. The pace of Ronaldo and Nani would cause most sides problems. Especially when Germany picked two centre backs at full back. Whether this was the problem for Germany remained to be seen but they certainly looked vulnerable from corners and also when Portugal broke fast and with a high tempo.
On thirty six minutes the game effectively ended. Thomas Muller closed Portugal defender, Pepe, down. Pepe's arms were high and appeared to catch Muller across the face. A free kick was not given by the referee and rightly so. Muller however went down very softly and theatrically. This infuriated Pepe who reacted by putting his head close to Mullers'. A clear red card offense. The referee obliged, Pepe was sent off and at 2 0 down with ten men, Portugal had lost the game before half time.
Muller's actions were deplorable but are sadly a very common site in football. The referee could have given a free kick to Portugal for a dive or given a yellow card to Muller and the reaction may not have happened?
Shortly after the break, Germany's patience paid off. Ozil used his quick feet to cross, Portugal failed to clear and Muller was on hand to convert for his second and Germany's third.
The game was no more than a training exercise for the German's now. Portugal at 3 0 down and with ten men were never getting back in to the tie. Pepe's idiocy had cost them big time and thrown their qualification for the next phase in to jeopardy.
More German pressure led to substitute Andre Schurrle having a fierce low drive parried by Patricio, the ever present Muller was on hand and completed his hat-trick. 4 0 Germany.
Little more than a walk in the park for the Germans. But a job well done. They started well and looked good going forward with fast, high tempo play and crisp passing. Toni Kroos stood out with his passing ability, equally Khedira anchored the midfield well. Attacking midfielder Ozil looked sharp and offered a threat. They did however look vulnerable on occasion, at corners and particularly when Ronaldo and Nani ran at their defence. But with players like Muller who have the knack of being in the right place at the right time and the ability to score. Germany will go far.
Portugal looked too dependent on star player Ronaldo. He himself looked to try too much and be too eager to make an impact on the biggest stage. Ronaldo will have to wait for another chance to score his 50th international goal but it will surely come. A lack of midfield dynamism and poor passing contributed to a pretty poor start to their campaign. Pepe's moment of madness cost them, he has let his country down.
Potentially serious injuries to several players, a suspension to key defender, Pepe and a 4 0 defeat only served to compound the Portuguese misery. A day that Portugal will want to forget. But definitely something to give the Germans confidence.
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