Salvador (Brazil), Jun 17: Thomas Mueller scored the tournament’s first hat-trick in Germany’s 4-0 rout of Portugal in a characteristic display of attacking football even as the hitherto free-scoring World Cup saw its first drawn match on the fifth day here.
Three-time champions Germany celebrated their record 100th World Cup match, the most for any country, in style by steamrolling Cristiano Ronaldo-led Portugal who played for nearly an hour with 10 men after defender Pepe was sent off for attempting a head-butt on Mueller in the 37th minute.
Mueller led a brilliant attacking brand of football with goals in the 12th, 45+1 and 78th minutes while defender Mats Hummels scored the other one in the 32nd minute.
The Group G match at Arena Fonte Nova here, however, did not live up to the pre-game hype of a marquee clash with Germany toying with their opponents and then Pepe’s dismissal making it worse for Portugal.
Ballon d’Or winner Ronaldo, who made it to Portugal starting line-up after being bothered by a left-knee injury in the build-up, made little impact on the game. He threatened early with a shot from a break that Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer could only block. His other significant involvement was a fine free kick late into the match but Neuer was upto the task.
Germany are now joined by United States on top of the so-called Group of Death after the Americans beat Ghana 2-1 at Natal. US thus avenged their defeat against Ghana in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa in the round of 16.
Elsewhere in Curitiba, Nigeria and Iran delivered the first draw of the World Cup on Monday as they ground out a scrappy 0-0 stalemate in their opening match in Group F.
The draw at the Arena da Baixada in the southern Brazilian city of Curitiba followed 12 mostly high scoring and attacking games.
Germany were a class apart from Portugal in their first match of the tournament with their sizzling display of fast and furious football with Chancellor Angela Merkel watching the match.
Coach Joachim Loew deployed three attacking midfielders without a classical striker and used captain Philip Lahm as defensive midfielder instead of his favourite right back position where Jerome Boateng was tasked to try and stop Ronaldo.
The ploy worked with Germany running over their opponents and keeping Ronaldo more or less quiet for most part of the match.
Playing in his 50th for Germany, 24-year-old Mueller opened the scoring after Mario Goetze was pulled down by Joao Pereira in the box, coolly slotting the resultant penalty kick into the right corner of Rui Patricio’s goal.
Hummels then rose above Pepe to double Germany’s lead with a well-timed header from a corner.
Pepe was sent off in the 37th minute for charging on and apparently head-butting Mueller who went down theatrically after being hit on the face by his rival.
Mueller scored again just before the break, stripping the ball from Bruno Alves and drilling in a low shot. He completed his hat-trick in the 78th minute in a goal-mouth scramble after Portugal goalie Patricio had parried a shot.
In the process, Mueller, who scored five goals in the 2010 finals in South Africa to claim both the Golden Boot and best young player award, scored his 20th international goal and eighth World Cup goal over two editions.
With today’s win, Germany continued their domination of Portugal by adding Brazil 2014 to their list of recent wins over Ronaldo’s side which includes the 2006 World Cup, plus the 2008 and 2012 European championships.
In Natal, US got off to a dream start as captain Clint Dempsey scored the opener after just 30 seconds — the fifth fastest goal in World Cup history — and German-born John Brooks headed a dramatic winner in the 86th minute.
Andre Ayew equalised for Ghana eight minutes before the end. But Brooks’ first goal for his adopted country avenged defeats to the same opposition in the past two World Cups, the latter when Ghana went on to the quarter-finals.