Germany vs. Portugal: 6 Things We Learned
Germany kicked off their World Cup campaign in incredible form on Monday with a truly spectacular 4-0 win over Group G opponents Portugal in the Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador.
Although the game had initially been considered a tight affair between two dark horses for the World Cup trophy, it was Joachim Loew's side who eventually showed their worth with a polished performance against a somewhat abject Portugal side.
The red card to defender Pepe in the 37th minute will undoubtedly be remembered as a turning point in the game, but in truth Germany were already two goals to the good, and had figured out Paulo Bento's side long before.
In Cristiano Ronaldo's stead, it was Thomas Mueller who came good to score all but one of Germany's goals and effectively ensure top spot in Group G, before two further games against Ghana and the United States.
Here are six things we learned from today's game.
Mario Goetze Proves His Worth on the Left
One of the most peculiar aspects of Germany's preparations for this World Cup was the fact that most fans were quite apprehensive about Mario Goetze's role within the side.
Loew had spent a lot of time and resources converting the Bayern Munich player into something of a false nine, which never really worked out for him or the side whenever he played. Despite his incredible talent and promise, most fans were eventually left wondering if the temptation of a striker-less side led by Goetze was a move too far for the Bundestrainer.
Alas this tactic never came to be against Portugal and with the unfortunate injury to Marco Reus prior to the competition, Loew was able to deploy Goetze in his more natural role on the left of attack, a position that he went on to thrive in.
From the left, Goetze was able to terrorize Portuguese right-back Joao Pereira with his deft touch and outstanding positioning, while also offering a constant avenue from which to attack for the counter-attacking German side.
A concern that turned into a pleasant surprise for Loew and his German side in this perfect start to the World Cup.
Pepe Shows His True Colours
Despite Portugal's relatively modest expectations at this World Cup amounting to being no more than dark horses for the competition, Bento's side do boast a number of world class players throughout their ranks.
One of these is undoubtedly the central defender Pepe who has become one of European football's most formidable defenders while playing for Real Madrid.
Unfortunately for him and his national side, Germany—Mueller in particular—were able to prod at the one chink in his armor—his explosive temperament—and eventually see to the towering defender getting sent off and potentially missing the rest of the World Cup.
Pepe has been no stranger to disciplinary warnings on the pitch throughout his career with 70 yellow cards and five red cards for club and country in the last six seasons, as we can see from his stats at Soccerway.com.
Ozil Shows Up When It Matters Most
In a similar manner to the apprehension surrounding Goetze prior to this competition, Arsenal's playmaker-in-chief Mesut Ozil was also under immense pressure from fans and neutrals alike to be dropped from the national team due to recent poor performances.
Yet through Loew's refreshing 4-3-3 system, which had Ozil play on the right of the attacking three, we once again saw brief glimpses of the magic that made him one of the most sought-after players in the world following a breakthrough World Cup in South Africa four years ago.
Ozil's entire game revolves around his ability to drift around the opponent's final third, with an obvious preference to receiving the ball in wide areas rather than in the middle of the pitch, which was evident from his notable glee when given so much time and space against Portugal's Fabio Coentrao.
Within just one game the former Real Madrid star has gone from public enemy number one to Germany's key attacking midfielder for the remainder of the tournament.
Portugal Start on Back Foot
Although Germany were always favourites to come out on top against Portugal in this Group G heavyweight fight, the manner in which Die Mannschaft were able to take Bento's side apart will undoubtedly leave many wondering just where Ronaldo and co will finish in the group.
The nasty injury to Coentrao and the red card to Pepe will almost certainly destroy any hopes of a tight back-line throughout the competition and when partnered with yet another abject performance from Ronaldo one wonders if their start to this World Cup could have been any worse.
With the USA up next for Portugal and then a tricky final game against Ghana, we could well see the European side crash out of the tournament at the first round.
No matter what happens in the next two games, the uphill struggle for Bento's side starts here.
Germany Shore Up Defence
Aside from the heroic performance and goals aplenty from Germany today, one of the most impressive aspects of the match against Portugal was just how sure and composed Loew's side looked in defence.
Although Germany have always been able to score goals with little trouble at all, seven conceded in their last seven games prior to the competition had left many worried that the likes of Ronaldo would have enjoyed an easy time of it in front of Manuel Neuer's goalmouth.
Yet what we saw instead was a very accomplished game-plan which saw Jerome Boateng adequately handle the Portuguese star while the likes of Mats Hummels and Per Mertesacker formed a formidable pairing in front of an industrious Sami Khedira.
In a competition that has seen most sides throw defensive caution to the wind, it will please Loew to know that his side can at least keep a clean sheet against a top opponent.
Thomas Mueller Continues His Big Match Record
To the jubilation of German fans across the world, it was Thomas Mueller who once again came to Germany's rescue in what was initially billed as a tight affair against Portugal.
In the Group G opening game the Bayern forward once again proved his immeasurable worth for Loew's side, with three fantastic goals to not only stake a claim on first place in Group G but on the competition as a whole.
Following a similar performance at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, the occasional forward now has an incredible eight goals in just seven World Cup games. Not only a young talent that Germany can rely on, but undoubtedly one of the competition's greatest-ever performers.
If any side do hope to stop Loew's team this summer they'll first have to come up with a plan to keep this goal-hungry striker quiet.