Portugal's Defensive Woes Undermine Any Chance of Beating Germany

Paul WilkesFeatured ColumnistJune 16, 2014

Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo, left, and Germany's Holger Badstuber vie for the ball  during the Euro 2012 soccer championship Group B match between Germany and Portugal in Lviv, Ukraine, Saturday, June 9, 2012. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
Frank Augstein/Associated Press

Portugal's World Cup campaign got off to an absolute nightmarish start as they were beaten, 4-0, by Germany.

Everything that could go wrong for Paulo Bento's team did, as their poor defensive display gave them little opportunity to defeat the Germans.

The early signs indicated that it could be an entertaining, end-to-end match, with Germany beginning brightly in possession and Portugal trying to find their counter-attacking rhythm.

Cristiano Ronaldo supplied Hugo Almeida, but the forward's shot lacked conviction.

Goalkeeper Rui Patricio began the uncertainty when his attempted pass into midfield was easily intercepted by Sami Khedira. With the initial shot targeting the empty net, Khedira was unlucky not to open the scoring.

They didn't have to wait too long for the first goal, as right-back Joao Pereira pulled down Mario Gotze.

Thomas Mueller dispatched the penalty in emphatic style and put the Portuguese on the back foot.

At the other end of the pitch, striker Hugo Almeida left the field injured to be replaced by Braga's Eder.

It made little difference, as Germany doubled their lead only a half-hour in. Mats Hummels outjumped Pepe from a corner to head home.

The Real Madrid defender's evening went from bad to worse when he was sent off for moving his head in the direction of Mueller.

It was an inglorious moment for both players, as Mueller initially fell to the ground clutching his face after Pepe had fended him off with his hand.

The exaggeration from Mueller was unnecessary, but the reaction from Pepe was amateurish given his stature as the defensive leader:

"There were two occasions when the referee showed bias, first with the penalty and then with the sending off," Bento said, per Paul Wilson of The Guardian. "I am not saying it was only the referee’s fault. We also made mistakes but the circumstances of what happened in the first half made the rest of the game difficult for us."

Down to 10 men, Bento moved his side to a 4-3-2 as Raul Meireles dropped into defence and Ronaldo joined Eder as a second striker.

Just before the break, the game was effectively over as Bruno Alves' attempted clearance was blocked by Mueller. The Bayern Munich false nine then slotted in his country's third and his second of the evening.

The second half was something of a formality for Germany, but the drama didn't end for Portugal.

Fabio Coentrao pulled up after stretching for a misplaced Joao Moutinho pass. The left-back instantly grabbed his leg and had to leave by stretcher to the changing rooms.

His substitute, Andre Almeida, then failed to cut out a through ball to Andre Schurrle, and the Chelsea winger's low cross was pushed into the path of Mueller to complete his hat-trick.

It was the first time that Patricio was at fault for one of the goals, but his performance was questionable as those in front of him fell apart individually.

Bento's selection was based on experience, as there was only one change to the team that narrowly lost to the Germans two years ago in the European Championships, via BBC.

Pereira didn't have the greatest of seasons at Valencia, as the Spanish team finished eighth in La Liga.

Coentrao started the campaign poorly, but his form improved after speculation of a Bernabeu exit dispersed when the January transfer window closed.

Then, there's 32-year-old Bruno Alves who is past his prime; his sale to Fenerbahce last summer confirmed as much.

For Pepe, it's extremely disappointing. His partnership with Sergio Ramos this year has been exceptional and was a contributing factor in Real Madrid claiming their 10th European crown.

There will be at least one enforced change in the remainder of the group matches through Pepe's suspension and most likely another after Coentrao receives his diagnosis.

Perhaps there should be more, given the way they all had a part to play in the team's collapse.

Both USA and Ghana will fancy their chances of scoring after watching this back four crumble with ease.