By Paul Kennedy
Germany has been knocking on the door of world soccer's elite club since
Joachim Loew succeeded Jurgen Klinsmann after the 2006 World Cup, but there were a lot of questions surrounding Germany
heading into the 2014 World Cup. I guess they were answered this afternoon in Salvador, eh? Here are some thoughts on the game, a 4-0 rout over Portugal.
of the hat to Pep. None of the question marks was bigger than whom Loew would play in the two central midfield positions. Borussia Dortmund's llkay
Gundogan was injured and didn't travel to Brazil. Longtime mainstay Bastian Schweinsteiger has been injured. Sami
Khedira was coming off a knee injury, while Philipp Lahm missed the start of training camp with an ankle injury.
Loew went with Khedira and
Lahm, and they along with Toni Kroos exerted total control of the game, never letting Portuguese midfield get in the game and feed Cristiano Ronaldo. Loew borrowed a trick from the playbook of Pep Guardiola at Bayern Munich, where the Spanish coach moved the German captain
from his outside back position to midfield. Even if it meant Germany started four central defenders across the backline, Lahm's insertion in the middle gave Germany a huge advantage.
False No. 9 project works. Will Miroslav Klose, the lone out-and-out forward on the Germany roster, catch Ronaldo and his record 15 World Cup goals? It's more likely will Thomas Mueller catch him. His hat trick against Portugal gave
him eight goals in only seven World Cup games.
Only three players have scored more World Cup goals in fewer games than Mueller: France's Just
Fontaine (13 goals in six games), Hungary's Sandor Kocsis (11 goals in five games) and Portugal's Eusebio (nine
goals in six games).
Portugal's 4-0 defeat was the worst loss in its history, but the debacle in Salvador is not the first time the Portuguese have started off badly. Remember Suwon, 3-2 for the USA over Luis Figo and Co., in 2002.
After an early chance saved by Manuel Neuer at the near post, Cristiano Ronaldo was nearly invisible. The only reason he likely stayed on the field was that Portugal ran out of subs. It got that bad.
face the USA on Sunday in Manaus without defender Pepe, red-carded for head-butting Mueller, and likely without Fabio
Coentrao, his other Real Madrid teammate, who went off with a groin injury. (Striker Hugo Almeida had also gone off in the 28th minute with an injury.)