Desmond Kane

Mueller the hero and villain as spectre of play-acting dilutes Germany win

Desmond Kane

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FIFA apparently ploughed the best part of £16 million into a movie that cost £19m to make called United Passions prior to these World Cup finals, charting the history of world football's governing body.

In a film that is unlikely to see the light of day until you come across it on DVD in a supermarket bargain bin, or perhaps not, Tim Roth - of Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction fame - is bizarrely cast as the FIFA president Sepp Blatter, who apparently had a hand in reworking the script to make him resemble some sort of intrepid football explorer.


These are apt days to be discussing a spot of ham acting because it is a blight on the landscape that has never quite vacated club or international football. Despite operating under the banner of Fair Play, we continue to be served up match-spoiling moments by dishonest conduct and acts of stupidity by the main protagonists of these finals, namely players who do not have the nous to behave like adults.

The first point to be made about Germany's 4-0 win over Portugal in Group G is that Joachim Loew's side look bright. Very bright.

Confirming their status as a country who are as comfortable with tournament football as lederhosen, they had far too much dynamite in their ranks for Portugal. They were leading 2-0 courtesy of Thomas Mueller's penalty on 12 minutes and a powerful header by Mats Hummels 20 minutes later. It was a typical German performance full of Teutonic goodness that we have come to expect from Die Mannschaft.

Blessed with pace and directness, they were well on their way to three points against Portugal in sweaty Salvador long before the Real Madrid defender Pepe was red carded, but the nature of his dismissal left a sour taste in the mouth.

Mueller would move to eight goals in seven World Cup matches by helping himself to a hat-trick, but his afternoon will be as much recalled for the moment he collapsed to the ground in a heap after being prodded in the face by silly Pepe.

Mueller theatrically threw himself to the ground despite minimal contact, clearly trying to encourage the referee to take action against his opponent.

It was a blatant act of cheating that should have seen him booked, but Pepe astonishingly decided to dole out his own form of retrospective action by thrusting his head into the face of Mueller.

It was more a press in the face than a outright headbutt, but Pepe had to walk for violent intent. He has players in his own squad who are familiar with diving for dishonest gain - think about Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani and you get the picture - yet he reacted against Mueller as if the Bayern Munich player had insulted his family.

It is difficult to see where all this nonsense fit into the Fair Play mantra of social responsibility espoused by FIFA. "Fair play is a fundamental part of the game of football," says the governing body. "It represents the positive benefits of playing by the rules, using common sense and respecting fellow players, referees, opponents and fans." Words without action are meaningless.

Mueller wound up as the pantomime villain and will walk away when he should face trial by television replay for bringing the game into disrepute. He leads the pack for the Golden Boot fours years after he won it in South Africa.

Not that the Germany camp were complaining as they set about continuing to dismantle a Portuguese side who had been at best ragged.

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In truth, Portugal should have been down to 10 men when Joao Pereira hauled down Mario Goetze as he sped in on goal for the concession of the penalty that saw Mueller convert. He was the last man. The referee did him a favour, but there was no way he could allow Pepe to escape the long walk up the tunnel.

Portugal are not a team. More a collection of individuals. If Pepe was more concerned about the common good, he would never have become involved with the grounded forward.

Some people never learn. He let his country down badly with Ronaldo cutting a forlorn figure. They have failed to score for the sixth time in their last eight World Cup games.


Fabio Coentrao was carted off with what appeared like a muscle problem to compound a poor afternoon. Portugal face a real struggle to escape from the section ahead of Ghana and USA.

The second half became a formality when Mueller managed to get ahead of Bruno Alves to add the third a minute into time added on in the first period with Rui Patricio nowhere to be seen in the Portuguese goal.

Mueller slipped the fourth into the net after Patricio could only nudge out substitute Andre Schuerrle's deflected cross on 78 minutes.

This all pleased the watching German chancellor Angela Merkel. Germany are strong in the Euro. They are likely to prove powerful in the world. The message is clear in this 20th staging of the World Cup: you can never write off Germany, no matter what shape they appear to be in.

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