Marvellous Muller outshines Ronaldo

Like so many teams at this year's World Cup, the Americans get extremely lucky, scoring a late goal to earn a huge three points in the 'Group of Death."

Here’s what happened on Monday at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, in case you missed it…

The results

Read match reports: Germany 4, Portugal 0 in Salvador || Iran 0, Nigeria 0 in Curitiba || Ghana 1, USA 2 in Natal

Thoughts on the day

Marvellous Muller: Yes, Thomas Muller “sold it” when he hit the turf after being fouled by Pepe. But the Portuguese defender was 100 percent in the wrong when he responded by butting heads with Muller. He deserved to be sent off. No question about it. As for Muller, what a player! The Bayern Munich star is clearly a man for the big occasion—his hat trick, the first of this tournament, took his tally to eight goals in seven World Cup games for Germany. How clinical was he against the Portuguese? He needed only four shots to score his three goals. He was also routinely in the right place at the right time, and he was heavily involved in Germany’s buildup play as he often drifted out to the right. With Muller up top, and the triumvirate of Philipp Lahm-Toni Kroos-Sami Khedira bossing the midfield, the Germans outclassed the Portuguese, ripping their weak defence to ribbons. Cristiano Ronaldo was the centre of attention beforehand. What a disappointment. He was barely involved and cut a frustrated figure as the Germans poured it on, outshone by the marvellous Muller. Germany is riding high, and the Portuguese must now overturn a minus-four goal difference and find their scoring shoes in their next game against the United States or risk an early return flight home.

0-0: It was the score line we were all dreading but knew that would happen at some point. Nigeria and Iran played out a goal-less stalemate in Curitiba, the first game of this tournament to end in a draw and the first not produce a single goal. The lack of offensive production wasn’t for a lack of trying, though, as both nations played at a fervent pace for most of the match and attacked with intent. The problem? A genuine lack of finesse and class inside the penalty area. Nigerian forward Emmanuel Emenike showed only flashes of brilliance, but rarely when he got sight of goal. Also, too many crosses from the wings into the box were over hit by the Africans. Iran’s Reza Ghoochannejhad was deprived of quality service, and barely influenced the game. With Argentina and Bosnia also in Group F, this was a golden opportunity for both countries to earn three points and boost their chances of survival.

USA, USA, USA: It was far from pretty, and manager Jurgen Klinsmann has a major problem going forward with Jozy Altidore likely ruled out for the remainder of the tournament with a hamstring injury. But the United States took full advantage of Portugal’s heavy loss and staked its claim on second place in Group G with a gritty win over Ghana. Clint Dempsey’s goal inside the first minute shocked the Africans, but they eventually got their bearings and dominated their opponents for most of the match. The U.S., though, limited the scoring chances, and enjoyed a bit of luck (the Africans didn’t convert on a few free headers inside the box) as their bend-but-don’t-break defence kept Ghana at bay. Eventually, the pressure was too much and Andre Ayew levelled the score in the 82nd minute. But just four minutes later, substitute marked his World Cup debut with the winning goal, heading home from close range off a corner kick. On the balance of play, it was a cruel result for Ghana. That won’t matter to the U.S., though, as they did what all great teams do: they found a way to win even when they didn’t play their best. Three points for the Americans, but they’ll have to be much better in the final third of third of the pitch in their next two games. Much, much better.

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Game within the game

Portugal tried to attack Germany down the wings but had very little success, especially through the opening 57 minutes (see map below). The Germans tackled the Portuguese successfully when they brought the ball down the wings—stopping them 22 out of 32 times—and Portugal only completed one of 21 crosses in the box by the end of the game.

Stat of the day

Goal of the day

U.S. forward Clint Dempsey scored after 32 seconds—the fifth quickest World Cup goal in history—and it was a beauty. Dempsey took a simple pass from Jermaine Jones and went on a quick run into the box, slipping between two Ghana players before cooly slotting home inside the far post.

Save of the day

In second-half injury time, Cristiano Ronaldo lined up a free kick and tried to salvage some pride for Portugal. He whipped a dangerous shot on net that German goalkeeper Manuel Neur dove at and parried away.

Match of the day

One of the quickest goals ever scored at the World Cup. Two goals in the final eight minutes of regulation. The United States versus Ghana was full of drama and entertainment.

Best moment of the day

Fans inside Salvador’s stadium were buzzing and screaming Cristiano Ronaldo’s name as Portugal warmed up on the pitch. As he walked towards the tunnel to head back to the locker room Ronaldo peeled off his shirt and threw it into the crowd for one lucky supporter. Nice to see these global super stars engage with the fans.

He said it

“We lost the game already in the first half. We couldn’t come back in the second. Germany played very well, we couldn’t do anything.” – Paulo Bento, Portugal manager

Question of the day

Tweet of the day

Sportsnet’s own James Sharman “brings the funny” after Pepe head butts Thomas Muller:

3 stars

1) Thomas Muller: The German forward recorded the tournament’s first hat trick, and had a hand in getting Pepe sent off.
2) Toni Kroos: He dominated in midfield for Germany, was immaculate in distribution and set up Mats Hummel’s goal.
3) Clint Dempsey: The American took his goal very well—it was almost Messi-like.

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