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Germany dismantles injury, red card-struck Portugal 4-0; Group G open for business

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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.

RELATED: Down 3-0 at halftime, reports say Cristiano Ronaldo swapped shirts with Sami Khedira?!?

Muller capped his hat trick with a tap-in goal that gives him eight World Cup goals asource: APt 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.

RELATED: Ronaldo’s form concerning for Portugal

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′)

Bayern’s Vidal says “ugly” Atletico not deserved UCL finalists

MADRID, SPAIN - APRIL 27: Juanfran of Atletico Madrid and Arturo Vidal of Bayern Munich argue during the UEFA Champions League semi final first leg match between Club Atletico de Madrid and FC Bayern Muenchen at Vincente Calderon on April 27, 2016 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
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Bayern Munich midfielder Arturo Vidal has declared “ugly” Atletico Madrid unworthy finalists in the UEFA Champions League.

Bayern was eliminated in the Champions League semifinal by Atleti on Tuesday, with Diego Simeone’s Spanish side advancing on away goals.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s UCL coverage ]

However, Vidal believed Bayern were the better team in the second leg, saying Atletico played “ugly football” to get through.

Today ugly football – Atletico – played against the best football in the world. The only time they saw the ball was for the goal.

They are going to be dreaming about us right up to the final. They did not have the ball, they took on the best team in the world, they took their chances and got to the final.

The best does not always win in football, like today. They are not deserved finalists.

Bayern Munich controlled more than 70-percent of possession and had 33 shots compared to Atletico’s nine, but those stats mean little as Antoine Griezmann’s away goal was enough to send Atleti to the final.

[ MORE: Former England striker Joe Cole headed to NASL’s Tampa Bay Rowdies ]

Atletico may not play the most attractive football, but after eliminating Barcelona and Bayern Munich in consecutive legs, it’s hard to argue anyone deserves this more than Simeone’s men.

Europa League preview: Liverpool, Shakhtar look to overcome Spanish foes

VILLARREAL, SPAIN - APRIL 28:  Cedric Bakambu of Villarreal is watched by the Liverpool defence during the UEFA Europa League semi final first leg match between Villarreal CF and Liverpool at Estadio El Madrigal on April 28, 2016 in Villarreal, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
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The second leg of the Europa League semifinals kick off tomorrow, with two La Liga sides looking to make it an all-Spanish final.

[ MORE: Premier League Playback ]

Villarreal holds a 1-0 lead over Liverpool, while Sevilla scored two away goals in their 2-2 draw at Shakhtar Donetsk.

Liverpool vs. Villarreal – 3:05 p.m. ET
Villarreal won first leg 1-0

Adrian Lopez’s late winner in the first leg has given Villarreal a slight lead, while the Spanish side did well not to concede an away goal. However, Liverpool have overcome deficits at Anfield before, including their memorable 4-3 victory over Borussia Dortmund in the quarterfinals. Emre Can is back fit for the Reds, as manager Jurgen Klopp will hope his fellow German can help the team to a cup final in his first year in charge.

[ RELATED: Liverpool preparing for another big Thursday night at Anfield ]

Sevilla vs. Shakhtar Donetsk – 3:05 p.m. ET
First leg ended 2-2 draw 

Sevilla are looking to become the first team to win three consecutive Europa League titles as the two-time defending champions face off against Shakhtar Donetsk. Sevilla are in the driver’s seat after scoring two away goals in Ukraine, and will feel confident of advancing to the final with a great home record at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium.

Men in Blazers podcast: Celebrating Leicester’s title with Arlo White

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In the latest Men in Blazers podcast, Rog and Davo celebrate Leicester City’s improbable Premier League title with Leicester’s own Arlo White.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

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European police say Russian mafia infiltrating soccer clubs

LISBON, PORTUGAL - NOVEMBER 04:  Sporting Lisbon fans celebrate after their team score a goal during the Portuguese Liga match between Sporting Lisbon and Uniao Leiria at the Alvalade XXI Stadium on November 4, 2005 in Lisbon, Portugal.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
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LISBON, Portugal (AP) Portuguese and European police say they have broken up a cell of an important Russian mafia group that allegedly laundered money through European football clubs.

Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency, said in a statement Wednesday the group identified EU football clubs in financial distress and infiltrated them with benefactors who brought much-needed cash.

[ MORE: Man City bounced from UCL ]

Once they were in control, the mobsters allegedly laundered millions of euros (dollars) through player transfers, TV rights deals and betting.

Portuguese and European police on Tuesday raided third-division Portuguese club Uniao de Leiria and arrested three key members of the Russian gang. Three other Portuguese clubs’ premises were searched.

Europol said the operation helped identify serious crimes in Austria, Germany, and the United Kingdom, though it gave no details.