Sure, the four German goals that followed before the 30th minute sealed the deal, but Mueller's finish was all fans needed to see to know how this one was going to play out.
Off a corner kick, inexplicably unmarked in the goal box after a communication mix-up involving David Luiz, Mueller easily reeled in the ball beyond all Brazil defenders and calmly struck it into the bottom right corner of the net.
It was indicative of the way Germany would handle Brazil throughout in a calamitous defensive effort that resulted in a 7-1 loss for the host nation – the most goals scored on Brazil in 80 years.
"Everything was organized for us until the moment of that first goal," Brazil coach Luis Scolari said. "Then, we got disorganized and then we kind of started to panic and everything went great for [Germany] from there and everything went terribly for us.
"… We lost to a great team in Germany. Even [the German team] said after the match, 'What happened?' It was because of their skills and their goals and we respect that."
The result was a surprise, no doubt. How the Germans did it, though, shouldn't have caught anyone off-guard.
Germany has been tactically sound throughout the tournament – coach Joachim Loew is fond of the word "compact" – but it's more than that. The Germans are always compact and tactical. They've imposed their will on opponents for most of the past two decades; four straight World Cup semifinals don't happen by chance.
This Germany team also is oozing with confidence. They know how good they are and they don't mind showing it. It was evident in the manner in which Mueller scored the opening goal, gathering the ball as if he wasn't in the middle of a fray a mere few yards from Brazil goalkeeper Julio Cesar and several defenders. It was perhaps even more plain to see with Germany's ball movement in the 20 minutes that followed, a rapid succession of positional understanding and precision passing that would ultimately make it 5-0 heading into the break.
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"I think from minute one we had the impression anything was possible," said midfielder Toni Kroos, who scored two goals in just under three minutes in the first half. "The Brazilians were a bit upset and they were not clear in their actions. We took advantage and scored one after another."
Loew agreed, saying, "We realized [early on] that they were nervous. The whole team suddenly had problems and wide spaces opened in the midfield."
Playing without injured star Neymar had a definite impact on the game – just not the effect one would imagine. Brazil missed its talisman, but the emotions accompanying his departure from the team and the added pressure on everybody else to pick up the slack may have played a bigger role on the outcome.
The crowd of 58,141 was raucous and emotions were raw – the Brazilian players paid tribute to Neymar several times before the game, wearing "#Forca Neymar" hats upon arrival and then holding up his jersey when the Brazilian national anthem started playing.
It was easy to see how much it meant to the Brazilian players to pick up the slack for their injured compatriot. The first 10 or so minutes was all action and the home nation had a couple legitimate scoring opportunities.
But Germany, ever confident and composed, simply weathered the storm and struck back with a vengeance. It used Brazil's over-the-top aggression against it early and often, springing counter-attacks and leaving the Brazilian backline looking confounded and overmatched.
"They had the higher pressure on their shoulders, having to win the World Cup at home," Kroos said. "In all matches so far, they have played well but maybe not up to their potential. We tried to pressure them and push them and force them to make mistakes."
Sure, it would've helped to have Neymar on the field. But, it would've taken a lot more than one player to beat this German team.
"If [Germany plays like it did], they could've scored that many even if we had Neymar," Scolari said. " I don't think there's any reason for us to suppose it would've been different with Neymar on the field."
A player who could've made an impact for Brazil was captain Thiago Silva, but again, one player wasn't going to stop this onslaught.
And if Germany plays like it did on Tuesday, it's hard to imagine Germany not rolling over the winner of Wednesday's Argentina-Netherlands semifinal at Maracana Stadium on Sunday as well. The Germans are tactical, compact, poised, confident – plug in whatever cliché soccer or sports term that serves your fancy – they're just really, really good.
[Gallery: World Cup semifinal - Brazil vs. Germany]
At one point, when the European side finally started misplaying a couple passes, one fan deduced it was because Germany didn't want to run up the score. It was 5-0 at that point.
Even the Brazilian crowd in attendance was left in awe. When Andre Schuerrle scored his second goal of the match in the 79th minute, the yellow-and-green-clad supporters still in attendance simply stood up and applauded the Germans. A few minutes later, they serenaded the visiting team with "Ole" chants after every pass – a gesture typically reserved for home teams/nations.
When Brazil's coach refers to a World Cup loss in its home country as the "worst defeat that has ever happened," you've made a definite statement.
Yes, Mueller's goal was the beginning of the end for Brazil. It also may have been a harbinger for things to come in the final.
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- Thomas Mueller