Germany’s Bastian Schweinsteiger, a midfielder with whose play I’ve been not at all enamored, notches a hat trick to lead Germany to a 3-1 victory. Schweinsteiger knuckled balled his first one in the 56th minute, and one had to feel sorry for the Portuguese keeper as he struggled to block a fast, hard shot that moved around as it sailed past him into the net.
Schweinsteiger, who’s greatest virtue heretofore was that his name was fun to say, got a second goal minutes later as his free kick across the box was deflected in by an unlucky Portuguese defender. Don’t know if how FIFA credits own goals like that, but I’m happy to give it to offensive player who kicked it, so I’m calling “hat trick” on the day.
Finally, Sweinsteiger cut again across the middle and shot hard, but this time with a rocket that curled up and away into the right corner. Wonderful shot which he over-celebrated by taking off his shirt, running about, and getting a yellow card. The coach, Jurgin Klinsmann, subbed him out immediately afterward, though I don’t think had anything to do with the yellow.
Portugal had their chances, but with one exception, they were utterly stoned by goalkeeper Oliver Kahn. He may be 37, but he’s also amazing. For the most part, it was like Portugal was kicking the ball against a wall. Like the US in 2002 with Kasey Keller, Germany well may have gotten the results they did with their best player on the bench. That’s no slight against Jens Lehmann, who was superb as Germany’s number one. It’s just that Kahn—player of the World Cup in 2002—is the best I’ve ever seen, and he brought his A-game today. The goal that Portugal scored was a huge defensive error where Kahn had no chance to save a point blank header. Besides that he stopped several good shots and smothered several 1 v. 1 breakaways. Sorry that we won’t see him again.
Which is what one would say about Luis Figo of Portugal as well. It was unfortunate that Luiz Scolari chose not to start him today. He deserved to start and captain the squad. I think Figo showed his age a bit this Cup, but he’s been a joy to watch, and he’ll be missed as well.