Mario Gomez celebrates after scoring what could be a crucial winner for Germany against Portugal.
While Germany have progressed into a more confident possession side since their impressive showing in the last World Cup, missing for much of this encounter was the same attacking verve which was such a hallmark of their play in South Africa.
New Arsenal signing Lukas Podolski was involved in the best moments going forward for the Germans in the first period. By far the clearest opening falling his was as Mesut Ozil pulled the ball across goal from the left to find Podolski in the center of goal 16 yards out, but his side-footed effort went the wrong side of the post from the German's perspective.
Five minutes from the break, Podolski this time played creator. An unchoreographed one-two taking place as Muller's cross to the far post was scuffed back across by Podolski to find the Bayern Munich man following up, but his first-time effort went wide of the target.
Against the run of play, it was Portugal that came agononizingly close to breaking the deadlock in the last minute of the first half. A corner from the right from Miguel Veloso found its way to Pepe, who took a touch before striking a side-footed effort from 12 yards out that had Manuel Neurer beaten but came back off the underside of the cross bar and down onto the line and eventually away.
While the game remained level, Portugal would certainly have been the happier side as aided by midfield shield Miguel Veloso they defended well against the German threat. And, going forward, Cristiano Ronaldo always looked like a potential threat down the left.
Indeed, the Real Madrid man was close to giving his side the lead in the second half. Jerome Boateng was forced to make a crucial tackle to deny Ronaldo when it appeared as though Joao Moutinho's incisive through ball had gotten the forward clean through on Neuer's goal.
But with Portugal looking increasingly comfortable, it was Germany that finally broke the deadlock. And there was little surprise that the goal arrived from a cross into the box; the Germans best form of attack all evening.
With little looking on, Sami Khedira swung a hopeful ball in that deflected up and fell perfectly for Gomez to rise up and in familiar fashion head the ball with ample conviction into the corner of the net.
As Portugal now abandoned their rigid defensive shape in search of an equalizer, Germany almost scored a second, minutes later. Muller was played into the space vacated by the advanced Fabio Coentrao and he struck a delightful low ball across the face of goal that just evaded the outstretched boot of Gomez.
At the other end, Portugal finally began to assert some concerted pressure as they sought a way back into the match. For the second time in the match, Paulo Bento's side struck the cross bar as Nani's attempted cross sailed over the head of Neuer but bounced back off the frame of the goal.
Portugal's clearest chance, though, came with just two minutes remaining as their two substitutes combined to almost lethal effect.
Nelson Oliveira cut the ball back from the byline on the left and after missing his target at the near post, Silvestre Varela came steaming in looking certain to score, but his low shot was well blocked by a desperate dive in front of Neuer by captain Philipp Lahm.
For all Portugal's late endeavors, Germany held on for what could be a priceless victory in this toughest of groups. It certainly wasn't the performance of champions, but much credit must go to Joachim Low's side for having the mental strength to win when below-par against a determined and capable defensive outfit.
There is little doubt that Portugal will feel hard done by after defending solidly for the bulk of the match, but in truth, they created little until forced to come forward late on.
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