Muller provides positioning masterclass to move level with Maradona: how Stats Zone saw Germany 4-0 Portugal
It's played host to two of the group stage's most appealing games on paper, and seen hidings in both with 10 goals along the way (next up is Switzerland vs France – not all good things last forever).
After Spain felt the Netherlands' wrath in Game No.1, this time it was Portugal's turn for some punishment at the hands of Germany. Joachim Low's men had cruised into a two-goal lead via Thomas Muller and Mats Hummels by the time Pepe was red carded for nudging his noggin in the wrong place, and it was three before half-time when Muller poked home the third.
Twelve minutes before the end, the tonking – and Muller's hat-trick – was complete after he capitalised on some weak defending from Bruno Alves before slotting home. The Bayern Munich man clearly enjoys the World Cup: these were his sixth, seventh and eighth goals in seven finals appearances, and came from just four efforts on goal.
Muller was in the right places at the right times despite only nominally playing as a striker: a look at his passes received shows the vast majority of them coming down the right away from goal.
It's testimony to a fluid German front three who caused problems all game for Cristiano Ronaldo & Co. Mario Gotze and Mesut Ozil were deployed down the left and right respectively, although both were willing to cut inside or act as supporting forwards inside the box while the other had the ball (Gotze had 4 shots on goal and completed 4/6 dribbles, Ozil was less direct with 1 shot and 2/3 take-ons completed).
At the other end, Ronaldo cut a frustrated figure. As skipper and above all else by far Portugal's best player, expectations understandably weigh heavy on the Real Madrid man's shoulders. But he can't do it all alone: he attempted 7 shots, 6 of those outside the box, but tested Manuel Neuer with only 2 of them. He was more involved after the break, before which time he'd received just 2 passes in the final third, but was ultimately left ruing a painful afternoon. Having only recently returned from injury, he perhaps should have been saved once the game was lost.
Germany's embarrassment of talent in midfield was on show yet again at the Arena Fonte Nova. With Bastian Schweinsteiger benched, the trio of Philipp Lahm, Toni Kroos and Sami Khedira dominated from the start. Kroos wasted just 3 passes and completed the most in the attacking third, while it was his corner that teed up Hummels' thumping header. Lahm recovered balls with regularity (9) to begin attacks; Khedira supported the right-side Ozil-Muller combination further forward.
Portugal largely focused their attacks wide, and found no joy. Germany tackled successfully down the wings, and even when they did allow the cross their centre-backs dominated. Indeed, Portugal players found a team-mate with only 1 of their 21 crosses. They lacked ideas from the first whistle.
Facts and figures
- Including shootouts, Germany have scored 19 of their last 20 penalties at World Cups.
- Germany scored a goal in the first 15 minutes of an opening World Cup game for the fourth time in the last 5 tournaments (1998, 2006, 2010 and 2014).
- This was the fourth World Cup in a row that Germany opened their campaign by scoring 4 goals or more.
- Thomas Müller has scored 8 goals in 7 World Cup appearances. He now has as many World Cup goals as Diego Maradona and Rudi Voller.
- Müller claimed the 49th World Cup hat-trick in the competition’s history.
- Germany have scored in 18 of their last 19 World Cup first round games.
- Portugal conceded 3 first-half goals for the third time (also in 1966 against North Korea and 2002 against USA).
- Portugal conceded 4 goals in a World Cup for the first time in their history.
- Germany have scored 36 headed goals since 1966, 17 more than anyone else in that period.
- Germany scored 4 goals in a game for the third time in their last 5 World Cup fixtures.
- Portugal lost their fourth World Cup match in a row against European opposition. They last avoided defeat against one vs England in the World Cup 2006 quarter-final.
- Portugal failed to score for the sixth time in their last 8 World Cup games.