Muller double helps Germany get off to winning start in Norway
Germany made a winning start to the defence of their FIFA World Cup crown, cruising to a dominant 3-0 qualifying victory over Norway with the help of a Thomas Muller brace.
Having fallen short at EURO 2016, where they lost to hosts France in the semi-finals, Joachim Low’s men set out with purpose to retain the trophy they won in Brazil two years ago.
In control from start to finish in Oslo, the visitors – captained by Manuel Neuer for the first time since Bastian Schweinsteiger’s retirement – went in front through Muller after 15 minutes.
And it was the Bayern Munich forward who supplied the assist for Germany’s second, which club-mate Joshua Kimmich emphatically dispatched in first-half stoppage-time for his maiden senior international goal.
Muller added a third on the hour mark to send Germany top of Group C – a position that, on this evidence, they are unlikely to relinquish.
Norway, meanwhile, failed to register a single shot on target and will be dreading the return fixture in exactly a year’s time.
Josh King caught Mats Hummels off guard in the early stages, robbing the Bayern Munich defender of possession before fluffing his lines in the box.
Muller then glanced a header wide of the target at the other end, while a reaction save from Rune Jarstein denied Benedikt Howedes as Germany cranked up the pressure.
Kimmich’s unsuccessful, if half-hearted, calls for a penalty proved to be of little consequence when the visitors took the lead through Muller soon after.
The hosts were unable to deal with a Mesut Ozil ball into the danger zone and it was Muller who eventually made the telling touch, prodding beyond Jarstein.
Goalkeeper Jarstein was again tested when a powerful drive from Kimmich prompted him to punch clear, while Norway’s offensive offering was limited to wayward attempts by Alex Tettey and King.
The most difficult aspect of Neuer’s new role as captain may have been ensuring his players could hear him, given that they spent most of the opening period camped in the opposition half, but he will have been a satisfied spectator when Kimmich hammered home a deserved second after being played in superbly by Muller.
Norway looked incapable of posing any threat to Germany’s lead and the points were in the bag when Muller met a Sami Khedira cross with a placed header after a sensational team move.
Germany were in a class of their own and, while they were unable to add to their three-goal haul, the manner of the victory sent a warning signal – if one was needed – to the rest of a group from which just one team will qualify automatically for the 2018 tournament in Russia.