Ahead of the tournament, had I been more of a betting man, I would've taken a flier on Andre Schurrle winning the World Cup Golden Boot. Inspired by his recent form for both club and country, I figured he would find plenty of opportunities as either an impact sub or a surprise starter in place of the injured Marco Reus. Today, he almost proved me right.
Coming on for the largely ineffective Mesut Ozil just past the hour mark, Schurrle may not have taken a single shot, but he could've easily ended up with a couple assists. So perhaps that's a very loose definition of 'almost proving me right' -- and that's before we get to Thomas Muller's hat-trick of the matching two-goal efforts from Karim Benzema and Neymar -- but let's not worry about that too much.
Supposedly marked by Andre Almedia (Fabio Coentrao's groin injury-induced replacement), Schurrle had the freedom of the park out there on the right wing and posed a constant threat to Portugal's depleted, both physically and mentally, back line. Thanks to Pepe's rush of blood to the head -- which ruined what promised to be the most awesome game yet at this already awesome World Cup -- the Cristiano Ronaldo National Team had been playing with 10 men since the 37th minute. Introducing the direct running, passing, and crossing of Andre Schurrle into the situation was almost unfair.
Not long after his introduction, in a pattern of play that would repeat itself multiple times, Schurrle broke down the wing, beating his man easily for pace and space. He found Mario Gotze in space, fifteen yards away from goal with a perfect square pass/cross, only to see the Bayern man dally and allow double bird aficionado Raul Meireles to recover and block the shot. Not ten minutes later, Schurrle's efforts were better rewarded. Beating his man on the dribble this time, he drove to the end line and spanked a low, hard cross into the six-yard box. Portugal's Rui Patricio got a hand to it, but he only managed to push it onto the foot of Thomas Muller, who accepted the gift gleefully for his third goal of the day. While I don't think Schurrle will be credited with an official assist there, I don't think anyone would complain if he were. So I'm giving him one.
All in all, it was a very good thirty minutes from the infectiously enthusiastic Chelsea man -- outside of a lazy offside just before full time -- and in what may be hopeful speculation, perhaps he'll get the nod over Ozil for Germany's next game against Ghana. Meanwhile, Portugal will look to recover from this disaster against the United States, definitely without the services of Pepe and Fabio Coentrao and perhaps cult hero Raul Meireles as well.