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Müller's Hat Trick, Red Card Provocation Drives Germany Past Portugal 4-0

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With a contract extension out of the way with Bayern, the 24-year-old continued his torrid World Cup form

Phil Walter

SB Nation's 2014 World Cup Bracket'

When Germany coach Joachim Löw elected to bring just one striker, Miroslav Klose, Thomas Müller's importance raised from participant to pivotal. That proved true in Germany's opener against Portugal, a 4-0 victory for die Adler.

The 24-year-old netted a hat-trick, giving him a total of eight in his seven World Cup appearances. His antics with Pepe also provoked the center back into a red card head butt, allowing Germany to storm Portugal's gate for more than half the match.

Müller opened the scoring in the 12th minute with a penalty, one that Mario Götze won for his comrades when João Pereira pulled him down in the box. It was the fifth successfully converted penalty in the World Cup in just twelve games thus far.

Toni Kroos, starting alongside Philipp Lahm and Sami Khedira in midfield, found Mats Hummels on a corner kick 20 minutes later, and the Borussia Dortmund center back promptly smashed with his head into the back of the net. Kroos, who completed 78 of his 80 pass attempts, also picked out Müller in first half stoppage time, who gathered the deflection off of Bruno Alves to put Germany up 3-0 before the break.

Jérôme Boateng was assigned to Cristiano Ronaldo's side of the pitch, the same right-back position he played in 2010 in South Africa. While not closing down the Ballon d'Or winner, or even playing touch tight at any point, Portugal were nonetheless deterred from playing towards his side of the pitch. Lahm acted the blanket for the center-back four, winning crucial tackles in midfield.

The Germans toyed with the 10-man Portugal; Götze got many chances to get on the scoresheet himself, but Portugal completed a crucial block on many of his attempts. Müller eventually collected his third in the 78th minute, finishing a low cross from André Schürrle that Rui Pitrítrico deflected to conclude the German barrage.

Müller's hat trick is the first of the World Cup, as well as the first hat-trick for Germany since Miroslav Klose's in 2002. He now tops the early goalscoring chart, ahead of Karim Benzema, Neymar, Arjen Robben, and Robin van Persie.

Manuel Neuer was called upon to make only one crucial save, a bullet from Ronaldo late in the match. Bastian Schweinsteiger was the only Bayern Munich player not to see the pitch, Löw electing to rest his vice-captain due to continued fitness issues.

Germany's next match is on Saturday when they take on Ghana in an international edition of the Boateng-bash.