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Germany 4 Portugal 0: Muller thrice

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Germany's Thomas Muller celebrates scoring his team's third goal.Germany's Thomas Muller celebrates scoring his team's third goal.THOMAS MULLER'S hat-trick thrust Germany into centre stage in this thrilling World Cup as Joachim Low's side demolished Portugal, their strongest Group G opponents, in Salvador.

Portugal were already 2-0 down before they imploded completely with Pepe, always the man most likely to lose his head, shown a straight red card for a light head-butt on Muller.

Germany, utterly dominant despite playing without a recognised centre forward, went on to win 4-0 with a hat-trick for Muller - the golden boot winner at the last World Cup - and a thunderous header from Mats Hummels.

It meant a hugely disappointing result for world player of the year Cristiano Ronaldo, who had declared himself fully fit from his knee injury.

Portugal face a real test now in a strong group with USA and Ghana where goal difference is likely to prove crucial, and to make matters worse lost another key defender, Fabio Coentrao, to a nasty-looking injury.

Neuer then came to the rescue again as Ronaldo threatened once more. Miguel Veloso caught Philipp Lahm in possession and with the Portuguese outnumbering the German defence sent Ronaldo racing in on goal but he hammered his shot straight at Neuer from a tight angle.

After that, however, and partly aided by some shocking defending, Germany assumed the early control.

Sami Khedira had already missed a golden opportunity when Portugal keeper Rui Patricio cleared the ball straight to his feet, and though he was 35 yards out the Real Madrid midfielder should have done better with the empty goal beckoning.

Muller did not look for a second as though he would miss the penalty, and he buried it emphatically to put the Germans ahead with 12 minutes gone.

Nani sent a shot skimming over the crossbar as Portugal tried to respond, but it was Germany who struck again.

Portugal had a penalty claim of their own turned down after Benedikt Howedes appeared to catch Eder as they challenged for the re-bound from Nani's shot, before Germany finally wrapped it up.

They had made heavy weather of getting the fourth, Gotze in particular being wasteful, but finally Andre Schurrle crossed low and Rui Patricio merely palmed the ball to Muller to poke him from close range with 12 minutes left.

Ronaldo's influence was strictly limited, only a blistering free-kick right at the final whistle and brilliantly saved by Neuer hinted at what might have been.

June 18 2014, 17:03

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