Monday, December 18, 2017
Sports

Thomas Mueller's 3 goals power Germany at World Cup

SALVADOR, Brazil — 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 had 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 the tournament in South Africa.

"To score three goals in the World Cup opener against such an opponent is great," Mueller said of his day 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 minute.

"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.

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 because of a left-knee injury.

With Chancellor Angela Merkel cheering in the stands — and later congratulating the team in the locker room — the Germans celebrated their 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."

Portugal was already 2-0 down when defender Pepe was red carded in the 37th minute for head-butting Mueller when the German was on the ground.

"The match was over in the first 45 minutes," Portugal coach Paulo Bento said. "Germany controlled the ball and they surprised us with counterattacking."

Iran 0, Nigeria 0: The tournament's first tie came in Curitiba in a scrappy stalemate.

After a first half in which Nigeria failed to capitalize on its dominance, chances were rare in the second.

Iran coach Carlos Queiroz said the result was fair and that his players deserved "sympathy and respect" for performing on the biggest stage despite economic sanctions on the country — which made it difficult to arrange pre-tournament exhibitions.

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