Germany became the first team in FIFA World Cup history to compete in 100 matches as the team took on Portugal in the Group G kick off game. The game was anticipated to be one of the best match ups of the tournament. However, it became apparent quickly that this was to be Germany’s day. Portugal started warm ups with a lackluster approach and that carried on throughout the match.
Both Portugal and Germany have struggled with injuries leading up to the World Cup. Both squads came out in a 4-3-3 line-up with Germany moving Philipp Lahm to the center midfield position in a more defensive line set up. Germany’s Jerome Boateng was positioned to cover Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo, who appeared in full health. However, Ronaldo is just a single player and needed his Portugal National Team teammates to come together to have a chance against the machine that is Germany.
The German National Team controlled the game from the opening whistle. Portugal attempted to run a Ronaldo led counter-attack style of play, which had no effect on the Germans. Controlling the pace of the game, the Germans struck first in the 12th minute on a Thomas Müller penalty kick. Portugal’s Joao Pereira was booked with a yellow card after pulling forward Mario Gotze back in the penalty box. Müller sent the ball past the diving Rui Patrico to give Germany a 1-0 lead. After the goal, Germany fell back into a defensive mode, looking for a clear advantage to get past the Portugese defense.
Germany took a 2-0 lead when Toni Kroos sent a corner kick into the box and Mats Hummels headed the pass into the goal in the 32nd minute. The frustration for Portugal began to set in. While Ronaldo looked healthy, Portugal started to self destruct as Pepe battled for the ball with Müller. Müller went to the pitch after taking a hand to the face. Pepe walked over to the downed Müller and head butted the German. This resulted in a red card for the Portuguese defender in the 37th minute, leaving Portugal to play the remainder of the game with 10 men. Germany added to the first half lead with a shot off the left foot of Müller in the first minute of extra time to close out the first half. Germany headed to the locker room with a commanding 3-0 lead while Portugal continues the game a man down.
The first half red card to Pepe against Germany makes the Portugal defender unavailable for the next game. That bodes well for the United States, Portugal’s next Group G opponent in 6 days. Without Pepe on the pitch and continuing Portuguese injury troubles, the doors may open a bit more for the USA to escape the group of death and make it into the knockout stage of the FIFA World Cup.
Germany came out in the second half presenting a master class in ball control. Portugal could not come together at all, even behind the brilliant ball handling from a healthy Ronaldo. In the 78th minute, the sound ball handling by Germany and the Portuguese defense coming apart, Müller netted the first hat trick of the World Cup giving Germany a 4-0 lead.
The communication between the Portuguese players seemed nonexistent while the German team showed strong discipline and ball control throughout the game. It was not until the 92nd minute that Ronaldo had his first real chance at a goal since early in the first half. The striker launched a free kick at the goal only to be turned away by German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, preserving the shutout. The 4-0 final was the largest margin of victory in the World Cup for Germany and the biggest loss by Portugal ever in the FIFA tournament.
Disappointing for German fans in the route of Portugal was the lack of Miroslav Klose. Klose has the chance to set the FIFA World Cup scoring record with two goals. Klose, who has 14 career tournament goals, trails Brazilian superstar Ronaldo by one goal. Klose was expected originally to start this Group G match up between Germany and Portugal. However, coach Loew chose to keep his only true striker on the team off the pitch for this opening game. Next up for Germany will be Ghana. In six days Portugal will face the United States without Pepe after the red card.
Commentary by Carl Auer