SALVADOR, Brazil (AP) — Thomas Mueller picked up where he left off at the World Cup, scoring a hat trick in Germany’s 4-0 victory over 10-man Portugal in the Group G opener on Monday.
Mueller scored five goals at the 2010 World Cup, along with three other players, but he also had three assists and that gave the Bayern Munich forward the honor of top scorer in South Africa.
“To score three goals in the World Cup opener against such an opponent is great,” Mueller said of his performance against Portugal, which was outclassed despite the presence of Cristiano Ronaldo.
Mueller opened the scoring with a penalty in the 12th minute and, after Mats Hummels’ headed goal in the 32nd, virtually put the match away by adding another shortly before halftime for a decisive 3-0 lead. Mueller added his third in the 81st.
“He is such an unorthodox player, as a coach you never know what he is about to do,” Germany coach Joachim Loew said of Mueller. “For opponents, he is very unpredictable, he only has one thought on his mind and that is to score a goal.”
Ronaldo, Portugal’s star striker and FIFA’s world player of the year, threatened a few times early in the match but remained largely ineffective. He had been doubtful before the match because of a left-knee injury.
Loew commended his players for cutting off Ronaldo’s supply of possession and keeping Portugal’s key player out of the game.
With Chancellor Angela Merkel supporting in the stands — and later congratulating them in the locker room — the German team celebrated its 100th World Cup match with a rousing victory.
“After 20 minutes, we looked up at the clock and thought it was going to be a long day,” Mueller said. “But we got into the match very well and when you lead by 2-0 in this heat and then even get the third, it was all over.”
Germany always aims to have an impressive start and it certainly did this time. Four years ago, it started with a 4-0 win over Australia and reached the semifinals.
Germany next faces Ghana on June 21 and the United States on June 26.