Muller shows Rooney how it's done as hat-trick sinks Portugal
German striker leads rout of Ronaldo's men, but Pepe red-card clash reopens dive debate
Germany 4 Portugal 0. Thomas Muller showed Wayne Rooney how a world-class striker should perform at the World Cup by scoring a clinical hat-trick as Germany thrashed Portugal 4-0 in their Group G opener, but he also reopened the debate about diving after helping to get Portugal defender Pepe sent off.
Muller, who scored five goals to win the Golden Boot in South Africa four years ago, took his World Cup tally to eight in five games – in stark contrast to Rooney who is still searching for his first goal in the tournament after nine matches.
It was a wretched afternoon for Portugal, who saw defender Pepe dismissed in the first-half for a headbutt on Muller, but that's to take nothing away from Germany. Yesterday's game was Germany's 100th World Cup match – more than any other country – and they celebrated in style against a Portuguese side that was curiously flat even with the inclusion of Cristiano Ronaldo.
Muller scored his first from the penalty spot on 12 minutes after Joao Pereira brought down Mario Gotze and centre-back Mats Hummels doubled the advantage with a powerful header just after the half-hour mark.
Then came Pepe's moment of madness. The Real Madrid defender had a minor coming together with Muller as they vied for the ball, but when the German went to ground clutching his face Pepe lost the plot. The apparent playacting sent Pepe wild and he stooped to touch heads with the prostrate German striker. Muller immediately jumped to his feet and referee Milorad Mazic acted even more decisively, brandishing a red card towards the Brazilian-born defender. From then it was not if Germany would win but by how many.
Muller scored his second on the stroke of half-time after an error by Bruno Alves and his hat-trick came in the second half courtesy of a rebound from Andre Schurrle's initial shot. It was the seventh time a German has scored a World Cup hat-trick (more than any other nation) and the hammering was the first time Portugal have leaked four goals in the tournament.
"I've been involved in the last three major tournaments so I'm used to the pressure," said Muller, whose feat was witnessed first-hand by German chancellor Angela Merkel. "But to score three goals in one game - that's pretty amazing, and the goals just got better and better. It's fantastic, but the merit also goes to the rest of the team."
Asked about the red card incident and his melodramatic reaction to Pepe's initial challenge, which so infuriated the Portuguese defender, he said: "I felt a blow from his fist. But what happened after that I can't really remember, whether we were head-to-head or not. I just hope it didn't look stupid on TV... I didn't want to cheat."
Germany coach Joachim Low was delighted with the result, and the performance of his hat-trick hero. "Thomas did really well up front and he constantly tore holes in the defence," he said. "He is a very unorthodox player and you can't really predict his lines of running, but he has one aim and that is: 'How can I score a goal?' That makes him so dangerous, especially in the box."
Germany's next game in Group G is on Saturday against Ghana, who lost their tournament opener last night to the USA 2-1 with John Brooks heading home a late winner for the Eagles."
Asked if he'll make any changes for the physical threat posed by the Africans, Low replied: "Ghana has an incredible physique, they are very robust, with very fast players... we will look at the team set-up."