Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Match Day 5 - Review - Powerful Germans make their mark

On day 5 we saw in my opinion the best team we have seen at the World Cup thus far. A ruthless Germany swept aside a poor, ill disciplined Portuguese team in baking conditions, laying down their marker in the process.

Match of the day: Germany v Portugal

This big match up of the day perhaps didn't live up to the pre match billing, but only because it turned out to be so one sided. As I suggested in my run through of the groups prior to the tournament, Portugal are a team completely reliant on their star player. That Ronaldo started despite a reported knee injury said it all. The only surprise was that he was stuck out on the left, on the periphery of the action, when he clearly needed to be playing through the middle.
As it was, Portugal had the early running in this one, with the first two chances of the game falling their way. First Almeida (a man with only one goal in 3 months, a little like Andy Carroll being our lead striker) had a weak effort easily claimed by Neur after good play by Ronaldo, and then the latter blazed wildly over from distance. Ronaldo again had a chance after an uncharacteristic mistake by Lahm, caught dwelling on the ball was robbed by Veloso. As the angle narrowed, he could only side foot his effort into the advancing Neur who smothered well.
Almost immediately Germany had a gilt edged opportunity to take the lead at the other end, the awful Patricio in goal for Portugal clearing under little pressure whilst outside his goal to Sami Khedira. The German midfielder, playing after a miraculous recovery from a serious knee injury, should have scored, but with the goal at his mercy, could only watch as the ball rolled agonisingly wide.
They didn't have to wait long before they did break the deadlock. In the 10th minute, following the best move of the match, Goetze spun passed Joao Pereira and bore down on goal. The Portuguese defender clumsily hauled him down, and the referee pointed to the spot. It could quite easily have been a red card, but the ref decided on yellow. The terrific Muller, with socks around his ankles as if from a bygone age, made no mistake with a typically clinical finish into the corner.
Ten minutes later Portugal through the otherwise wasteful Nani had a good effort from the edge of the area, the ball swerving narrowly over the bar. This came against the run of play however, Portugal standing off and showing the Germans far too much respect.
On the half hour, a great cross field pass released Mesut Ozil in behind the defence. He in turn laid it off to Goetze who's shot was blocked for a corner. And it was from the resulting set play that Germany doubled their lead. A perfect delivery from Kroos, met emphatically by Mats Hummels with a thunderous header ripped into the net.

Hummels powers home
At the other end Coentrao had an opportunity to shoot but opted to try and square to an offside Ronaldo, and then Eder, on for the injured Almeida, headed over from a corner.
The games big talking point came when Pepe, almost playing himself into trouble at the back, caught Muller in the face with a flailing arm. It certainly wouldn't have hurt the big German, but he went down as if he'd been shot, trying to get the defender sent off. Pepe, understandably annoyed by such antics, confronted Muller, but inexplicably pushed his head into the German as he sat on the ground, leaving the ref with little choice but to brandish the red.
To compound the misery for the Portuguese, Muller grabbed his second on the stroke of half time, closing down an attempted clearance by Alves, before turning and smashing the ball past Patricio. Arguably the keeper may have done better?
It would have seemed sensible at 3-0 down for Portugal to take off their star man, Ronaldo, who hadn't been in the game, saving him for their remaining matches, but he did re-appear, and was deployed in a more central role to little effect.
In truth the second half never really got going, the Germans happy to keep possession and understandably preserve energy in sapping conditions.
Muller did grab his hat-trick with ten minutes remaining, a cross by sub Andre Schurlle was spilled by the hapless keeper, laying the chance on a plate for the German to gobble up.

The fantastic Muller completes his hat-trick
There was some bad news for Germany on an otherwise perfect day, their fantastic centre half Hummels hobbling off with what appeared a nasty knee twist.
Despite potentially losing one of their first choice half centre halves, Germany look like the strongest squad in the competition, and this display will have sent a message across the world. Portugal looked anything but a threat. With injuries to Coentrao and Almeida, coupled with a ban for Pepe, they will struggle to even beat their next opponents USA.

In the days other matches, a dull affair between Nigeria and Iran was to finish goalless, the first draw of the competition. Neither team will have worried Bosnia or Argentina, and it is difficult to see them causing many upsets in Group F.
And a far more lively match between USA and Ghana was the day's late kick off. The US started at breakneck speed, taking the lead after only 30 seconds through Clint Dempsey, turning inside his marker and expertly guiding past Kwarasey in the Ghanaian goal. The large American contingent in the stands went wild.

US fans enjoying the goal on Copacabana beach
They could have doubled their lead when the worst player in the Premier League, Jozy Altidore, opted to shoot when a lay off to Jones would have been the better option. Altidore was soon to see his World Cup cruelly finish as he was forced off with a pulled hamstring. I breathed a sigh of relief in the knowledge my promise to never watch football again if he were to score at the tournament was no longer under threat.
For large portions of the remainder of the match, Ghana had most of the possession and chances, but poor decisions and terrible final balls meant USA with Tim Howard having a great game in goal never looked like they would make the breakthrough. However, with ten minutes left they did just that. A superb back heel by ex Sunderland man Asamoah Gyan found Andre Ayew who collected and slotted past the American at his near post with the outside of his boot.
There only looked one winner from here, but in a rare attack, the US forced a corner, and from a good delivery, half time substitute John Brooks rose highest to power in an unstoppable header to seal all three points against the odds.

Hero of the day: Thomas Muller - a measure in Teutonic efficiency. The man who finished top scorer in the World Cup 4 years ago has put his marker down early with a ruthlessly taken hat-trick this time around. Equally comfortable in midfield to leading the line, Muller is a player of the highest quality.

Disappointment of the day: Portugal - it'd have been harsh to single out their star man Ronaldo, simply because his team mates were so poor. I had predicted as much, so maybe they weren't a disappointment as such, but with players from some of the top sides in Europe, you could have expected more than what they delivered? In reality they were blown away by a rampant German side, and offered no resistance at all. Surely they will worry for their chances of qualifying for the second phase now.

Villain of the day: Pepe - the Portuguese centre back is no stranger to controversy, often cited as one of the most dirty players at the top level of football. However, here he showed shear stupidity to get sent off, letting his team down badly. The man has got a screw loose. Muller should himself take plenty of criticism after his play acting antics led to the Portuguese's dismissal.

Pepe: Lost his head (again)
Wanker of the day: Robbie Savage - co-commentating on the USA v Ghana match for the BBC, Savage gave one of the most critical displays I've ever heard. Does he actually like football? He certainly appears to see little joy in the game. Anyone would have thought that he was the second coming of Pele, and not a journey man clogger who was known for his energy and winding opposition players up, rather than his scintillating skill or ability to open up a defence.

Robbie Savage: hates football
Moment of the day: USA's winning goal - John Brooks' reaction to his winning header was one of the highlights of the tournament so far. I know little of his back ground, but it was great to see a player who clearly cared so much, and couldn't quite believe what he'd just done. A great moment that will live long in the US's football history.

John Brooks in dream land
Are Germany now the team to beat? Can they become the first European nation to succeed in South America? Were Portugal the worst of the 'big' nations we've seen so far? Did you manage to sit through all of the Iran v Nigeria snooze-fest? Can USA now qualify for the second round?

Leave your comments below and please follow me on Twitter: @russellheaps

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