Short of Cristiano Ronaldo quitting or losing a limb, Portugal’s 2014 World Cup opener could’ve hardly gone any worse than its 4-0 loss to Germany.
The Germans ran roughshod over Portugal to open the match, building a 2-0 lead before Pepe decided to make it even easier for them by headbutting Thomas Muller after the German embellished contact from the Portuguese defender.
The dismissal will give Pepe a night off against the United States on Sunday. It was a solid player losing his mind on a massive stage, and it was a stunner.
“Drawing” the headbutt from Pepe was far from Muller’s only work in the match, as the forward secured a hat trick with a 78th minute goal to make it 4-0 to the Germans. The prohibitive favorite of Group G, the Germans were clinical and workmanlike.
They dismantled Portugal. It wasn’t close. Here’s what we were saying at halftime.
12′ – Mario Gotze was dragged down in the box by Joao Pereira, who is given the yellow card. More importantly, it’s a penalty kick for Thomas Muller and, well, he’s good. Low, hard and to the right of the keeper. 1-0, Germany.
30′ – The culprit from the PK, Pereira, bails out Bruno Alves by deflecting Gotze’s shot out for a corner but the relief is short-lived. Toni Kroos sends in a beaut that Mats Hummels rises to head past Rui Patricio. 2-0, tallest team in World Cup.
45′+1 – Bruno Alves’ weak clearance attempt falls to Muller’s feet, and the German forward does what he does in the World Cup: he scores. 3-0.
Muller capped his hat trick with a tap-in goal that gives him eight World Cup goals at the age of 24.
Making things worse for the Portuguese was a scary-looking injury to standout back Fabio Coentrao. If he’s unable to play on Sunday, that would be two world-class defenders who would miss the US match. Attacker Hugo Almeida also left the game in the first half with an injury.
Germany lost a defender, too, in goal-scoring Mats Hummels. The States face Germany on the group’s final day.
Ronaldo was a shadow of his great self, looking frustrated and chirping at the referees (admittedly, he had a point from time-to-time. Eder could’ve had a late penalty).
Portugal: Patricio, Alves, Pepe, Veloso (Costa, 46′), Coentrao (A. Almeida, 65′), Ronaldo, Moutinho, H. Almeida (Eder, 27′), Meireles, Nani, Pereira.
Germany: Neuer, Howedes, Hummels (Mustafi, 72′), Khedira, Ozil (Schurrle, 61′), Muller (Podolski, 81′), Lahm, Mertesacker, Kroos, Gotze, Boateng
Goals: Muller 3 (12′, 45+1′, 78′), Hummels (30′)