Salvador, Brazil (4E Sports) – Midfielder Thomas Muller recorded a hat-trick to lift Germany to a 4-0 thrashing of 10-man Portugal in their opening World Cup match Monday at Arena Fonte Nova.
Muller, a golden boot winner at the 2010 World Cup, continued his superb run at the football’s greatest spectacle, taking him to eight goals in seven appearances at the event.
On his 50th Germany appearance, the Bayern Munich man fired his side in front from the penalty spot in the 12th minute before Mats Hummels doubled their advantage with a towering 32nd-minute header.
Things got worse for Portugal as defender Pepe was shown a straight red card following an altercation with Muller, and the Bayern Munich man took full advantage in first-half stoppage time when he buried his second goal of the day.
Muller finished his treble in the 78th minute when he fired one home from close range to become the fifth German player to score a hat trick in the World Cup.
With the win, Germany surged to the top of Group G, while Monday’s other contest in the group sees the United States kick off its World Cup journey against Ghana in Natal.
It will be an uphill battle for Portugal to reach the last 16 with games against the Americans and Ghana still to come.
Portugal’s preparation was largely focused on Ronaldo, who has been plagued by thigh and knee problems in recent months.
However, he quickly proved his fitness with a sprint and strike at Germany goalkeeper Neuer after Miguel Veloso stripped Philipp Lahm of the ball.
Neuer’s opposite number, Patricio, then gave Sami Khedira an excellent chance to open the scoring when he scuffed a horrendous clearance, but the midfielder saw his 40-yard snapshot curl wide with the goalkeeper beaten.
Germany did not have to wait long to take the lead though, as Mario Gotze wriggled past Joao Pereira and was hauled down, allowing Muller to fire the resulting spot-kick into the bottom-left corner in the 12th minute.
Portugal had a chance to equalize in the 25th minute when Nani did well to bring down a cross-field pass on the right flank but his strike narrowly missed the top left corner of the net.
Portugal’s hopes quickly unraveled after Pepe was ejected. The center-back put a hand in the face of Muller as the pair both battled for the ball and the German appeared to make the most of the contact.
However, Pepe’s decision to push his head into a sitting Muller left referee Milorad Mazic with no choice but to send him off.