London - The finish was instinctive, wrapping his right foot around the ball to bend it beyond the outstretched arms of Tim Howard in Germany’s final group game. Thomas Muller is a special talent.
He is made for this tournament, one of the leading players at the World Cup again after another outstanding contribution to Joachim Low’s side.
On Tuesday evening, when he lines up alongside his team-mates in the Estadio Mineirao, this will be Muller’s second successive World Cup semi-final.
England still shudders at the memories of his blessed performance in Bloemfontein in 2010, when he scored twice during Germany’s 4-1 victory at the Free State Stadium. He is an exceptional player, blessed with technique, power, pace and an eye for goal. The Germany forward is the identi-kit, modern-day footballer.
Muller has scored four and made two more at this World Cup and the Bayern Munich forward, just 24, is one of the most important players in Joachim Low’s side.
‘His finishing is clinical and he is a strong boy, so difficult to shrug off the ball,’ remarked former Germany midfielder Dietmar Hamann.
‘He has the ability to change games with his finishing and he will score from the tightest of angles. He’s there in a flash.’
Muller is the focal point of their attack, rotating positions with Mesut Ozil and Andre Schurrle while Toni Kroos and Bastian Schweinsteiger provide support from deep-lying roles.
He is so versatile, so adept that earlier in the competition he kept Miroslav Klose, one goal away from becoming the all-time leading scorer at World Cups, out of the team.
After the 1-0 victory over France at the Maracana in the quarter-final on Friday, Muller described the conditions in Rio as ‘like playing in a barbecue shack.’
This Germany team is hot, though. They have evolved in tournament conditions and are fully prepared for the hostile atmosphere that awaits them in Belo Horizonte when they take on Brazil.
Low remains super confident, even though the pressure will be almost intolerable and the din inside this magnificent stadium will shake them up before kick-off.
Remember, Germany’s coach is the man who was pictured holding up four fingers before the tournament to confirm their intentions to win a fourth World Cup. ‘We’ve been in the semi-finals of the last four World Cups and that just shows we have been playing consistently at the very highest level,’ said Low on Monday.
‘This is a highlight now. It’s something special and amazing. I’m looking forward to it so much, and everybody in the squad is too.
‘I think all Germans are also, and one thing’s for sure - we desperately want to play in the Maracana in Rio again. On July 13. We’re not done yet.’
Germany are durable this time and the presence of Manuel Neuer in goal, a shield behind that back four, has given them added security. So far, they have only conceded four goals.
They have the characteristics of a tournament-winning team, an aspect Lothar Matthaus, the captain of the triumphant 1990 team, has noted.
Matthaus, who is in Brazil for the tournament, said: ‘It is no longer as attractive and beautiful as it was in 2010 but it is more oriented towards having a stronger defence - there is a saying in Germany that the defence wins titles and the attackers get all the glory.
‘I expect even more from them against Brazil. The team played a good game against France but the real face of the German team will show itself against Brazil and possibly in the final.’
That is the target for this Germany team, to line up alongside Argentina or Holland in the tunnel at the Maracana on Sunday afternoon.
Low described his team as ‘self-confident’ on Monday and they are remarkably assured going into a game when they know the weight of a nation will be against them.
There will be 58 000 people inside the stadium this evening and 200million crammed around television sets to watch Luiz Felipe Scolari’s side attempt to reach the final.
‘We know how strong Brazil are,’ added Low. ‘They were the big favourites right from the start and the players have mostly coped with this role outstandingly.
‘They underlined that at the Confederations Cup last year and the pressure doesn’t numb them.
‘It’s good when the hosts go so far, but we’re self-confident and we’ve gelled as the tournament has progressed.’