Muller fires the opening salvo

Muller fires the opening salvo

Way before before a ball was to be kicked at the ongoing World Cup, much of the spotlight was centered on three superstars who were expected to ignite the showpiece event with their individual brilliance.

Four-time World Player of the Year Lionel Messi, the reigning Ballon d’Or holder Cristiano Ronaldo and the darling of Brazil, Neymar, were the three contenders who were spoken about largely despite the tournament boasting of plenty of superstars. However, one such star who may, perhaps very likely, outshine everybody is Thomas Mueller.

Even during the previous World Cup in South Africa plenty of focus was on Messi and Ronaldo but Mueller, then a talented and a fast-rising 20-year old, stole the show completely despite featuring in an extremely talented German squad, winning the famous Golden Boot for netting five goals and laying three assists. And the decision to choose the Best Young Player award turned out to be a complete no-brainer for the jurors with the Bayern Munich midfielder making a stellar announcement on the world stage.

Four years later with two Bundesliga crowns and the coveted Champions League winners’ medal in his kitty, Mueller -- who shares the surname with the 1974-World Cup winning striker and legendary Gerd -- is determined to climb the ladder higher. He delivered an astonishing opening salvo against Portugal on Monday, converting a penalty, showing good composure to hammer home his second before displaying a typical poacher’s eye in completing a hat-trick.

Despite netting goals by the bagful for Bayern and Germany, what makes Mueller very dangerous is his predatorial nature and sharpness in front of the goal. The attacking midfielder has the ability to rip open any defence, his instincts, movement and sense of position inside the box have been extraordinary. In short, the 6’1’’ player is a defender’s nightmare.

“He is a very unorthodox player and you can’t really predict his lines of running, but he has one aim and that is: ‘How can I score a goal?’ That makes him so dangerous, especially in the box,” was German coach Joachim Loew’s assessment of his chief strike force after the Portugal annihilation.Even the great Gerd, who scored West Germany’s winning goal in 1974 final against the Netherlands, had nothing but praise for the young German. “The lad’s fast, he’s got a good technique -- he’s going to be a great player,” said the 64-year-old.

Neymar lit up the World Cup with a brace while Messi showed he means business this time around after firing blanks in the last edition with a dazzling goal in Argentina’s opener against Bosnia. Mueller shadowed their heroics with a hat-trick.

It’s too early in the tournament to suggest anything but one thing is very evident – Mueller’s determination to leave a lasting impression.