Clumsy 'swan' regains scoring touch

OSLO • Thomas Muller was back to his ungainly best for Germany in their World Cup qualifying win over Norway on Sunday, giving the sort of bafflingly effective display which makes him one of the game's most enigmatic players.

The 26-year-old took advantage of shoddy Norwegian defending to give the title holders an early lead and headed the third goal on the hour of the European Group C game.

In between, he produced a superb pass to set up Joshua Kimmich for his first international goal.

The German Football Federation, not always noted for its sense of humour, summed up the striker's style of play in a nutshell on its Twitter feed with its description of the first of his two goals in the 3-0 win.

"The grace of a swan wearing ice skates, but he's just so darn effective," it said, followed by the hashtag "#muleteer".

Muller has scored 34 times for Germany in 79 appearances but had not hit the target in a competitive game since last October, a run which included the whole of Euro 2016.

The goal which ended the drought in the 15th minute was absolutely typical.

Muller had a shot on goal blocked by the Norway defence, fell over, managed to get up again and then score with a deflected left-foot shot despite having four defenders in close proximity.

Muller has never conformed to the footballers' stereotype.

He stumbles rather than glides past opponents, his ungroomed mop of floppy hair has not changed in years, he has unusually skinny legs and he eschews tattoos, while his wife is a dressage rider rather than a model or an actress.

Muller's own Twitter feed is named "esmuellert" from the verb Mullern (literally to Muller) which he has invented to describe his own style.

"The term describes his odd movements," explained a user on the question-and-answer website Quora. "Sometimes it looks like his body is just moving on its own."

Coach Joachim Low was as relieved as anyone to see Muller rediscover his scoring touch.

"It was good for Muller to get the goals and good for us," he said, then added jokingly: "I would have preferred him to have scored some goals in the Euros."

Norway, who beat Germany 1-0 away in a friendly in 2009 when the teams last met, lacked ambition from the outset but any plans they may have had of frustrating the visitors were quickly torpedoed.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 06, 2016, with the headline 'Clumsy 'swan' regains scoring touch'. Print Edition | Subscribe