Thomas Mueller’s hat-trick inspired Germany to a ruthless 4-0 mauling of 10-man Portugal in their opening World Cup Group G match on Monday.
The Germans delivered a sizzling attacking display that underlined their tag as strong title contenders and the match, billed as a clash of European heavyweights, was over as a contest by halftime.
“Three goals in one match, in the opening match against such an opponent is just great,” Mueller told German television.
“In the last four years I’ve had some experience in world soccer and I’m not the kind of guy who gets afraid,” he added.
“We got into the match really well and had some half chances then suddenly we were ahead 2-0. In heat like this a lead like that is a great advantage.”
Two Mueller goals and a thumping Mats Hummels header blew away a Portugal side whose misery was compounded by a needless 37th-minute red card for Pepe.
The defender, furious at what he felt was “simulation” by Mueller following a slight collision between the two, was sent off for pushing his head into the German’s face as he sat on the ground.
In their 100th World Cup match, the first team to reach the milestone, Germany were in the mood to party in the sapping Salvador sunshine and went ahead after 12 minutes through Mueller from the penalty spot after the clever Mario Goetze was hauled down.
Hummels powered home the second from a corner on 32 minutes before Mueller, top scorer at the World Cup four years ago, stole in ahead of a sleepy Bruno Alves to smash in the third in first-half stoppage-time.
The interchanging attack of Goetze, Mueller and Mesut Ozil bamboozled Portugal, whose talisman Cristiano Ronaldo was left a frustrated observer for much of the match, a late long-range free kick parried by Manuel Neuer his best moment.
With German Chancellor Angela Merkel watching in the crowd, Mueller completed the first hat-trick of the tournament after 78 minutes, prodding home a spilled Andre Schuerrle cross and extending his country’s run of having won every opening World Cup match since 1990.
The demolition will send a strong message to Germany’s rival title contenders in Brazil and left Portugal looking nervously at qualification with games against the U.S. and Ghana to come.
“We have to analyse this in all calm,” Portugal coach Paulo Bento said.
“We tried in the second half but didn’t succeed. We lost the match in the first half and couldn’t change that in the second half.
“Germany played well, two right away and three in the first half. Then we lost Pepe. Our counter attacks didn’t really suceed either.”