Andre Schurrle came off the bench as Germany routed Portugal, our Nigerian trio were held to a disappointing goalless draw by Iran while Ghana and Christian Atsu lost late on to the USA.
In the day’s first World Cup action, played in the early afternoon heat of Salvador, Germany crushed 10-man Portugal 4-0. Thomas Muller converted an early penalty after Mario Goetze had been fouled before a fierce Mats Hummels header doubled the Germans’ advantage.
Pepe was then sent off after headbutting Muller and the Bayern Munich man compounded Portugal’s misery when he lashed home a third on the stroke of half-time.
Schurrle was introduced for Mesut Ozil with an hour played. Our winger was deployed on the right and it was from that position that he cutely played in Goetze as the Germans counter-attacked. The latter’s shot was well-saved.
Ten minutes later Schurrle did have an assist to his name when he was picked out in space on the right and drove in a low cross-cum-shot. Rui Patricio, the Portuguese keeper, could not hold on to the delivery and Muller was on hand to tap home the loose ball, in the process netting the first hat-trick of the World Cup.
Nigeria found the going much tougher in their opening match. John Mikel Obi, Victor Moses and Kenneth Omeruo all began the game for Stephen Keshi’s side in Curitiba, but against a well-drilled Iran team they struggled to create any clear opportunities.
Mikel found Moses for an early Nigerian shot on target from outside the box, before Ahmed Musa’s clever free-kick nearly caught out the Iranian keeper.
Perhaps the best chance of the entire match went the way of Reza Ghoochannejhad, the Charlton striker, whose header from a corner drew an excellent stop from Nigeria skipper Vincent Enyeama.
Mikel and Omeruo both completed 90 minutes for the African champions while Moses was replaced by Shola Ameobi six minutes into the second period.
It was the former Newcastle forward who nearly snatched a late winner for the underwhelming Super Eagles, but his header from a Mikel corner was blocked before it could threaten the Iran goal.
Nigeria will hope to improve in their next game against Bosnia and Herzegovina on Saturday evening.
The day’s final match was an entertaining affair between Ghana and the United States. Christian Atsu played 76 minutes for the Black Stars and impressed throughout from his position on the right side of an attacking three. The winger, who spent last season on loan at Vitesse Arnhem, almost created a chance for Asamoah Gyan with a delicate through pass not long after Clint Dempsey had given the Americans a first-minute advantage.
Atsu then teed up Jordan Ayew on the stroke of half-time but the Marseille forward scuffed his shot from a presentable position. Atsu had a couple of decent long-range efforts either side of the interval that flashed over Tim Howard’s bar, and his contribution ended on 76 minutes when Albert Adomah, of Middlesbrough, took his place. Michael Essien had been introduced five minutes earlier.
Ghana levelled through Andre Ayew with 81 minutes played, following good work from Gyan, but the USA had the final say with four minutes to go when substitute John Brooks headed home a corner. That was the end of the late drama and the result leaves Ghana, who face Germany next, with a mountain to climb if they are to qualify from a tough group.