Hansi Flick is under increasing pressure as Germany manager after Japan condemned his side to a fourth defeat in five games.
Fans at the Volkswagen Arena jeered the hosts at the final whistle, with Germany having now conceded 11 goals in their last five matches to leave them facing a crisis less than a year before they host the European Championships.
Junya Ito gave Japan the lead before Leroy Sane levelled in the 19th minute, but the hosts were overwhelmed after that.
Japan, however, responded when Ayase Ueda fired past Marc-Andre ter Stegen before late goals from VfL Bochum forward Takuma Asano and Fortuna Dusseldorf’s Ao Tanaka made the scoreline even more humiliating.
It was enough to prompt a furious backlash from the German media. A TV commentator for Germany broadcaster RTL+ declared “es ist ein desaster” while the country’s most popular newspaper, Bild, said Flick was facing the end.
The 58-year-old’s position has come under scrutiny following a desperate run stretching back to before the World Cup last year.
Germany have won just four of their last 16 matches, a run which included a group stage exit in Qatar, the second consecutive World Cup in which they had been eliminated at that period.
Japan defeated Flick’s team at that tournament and they repeated the trick in Wolfsburg on Saturday evening.
Flick was appointed Germany manager in August 2021 after replacing the long-serving Joachim Low following the 2021 European Championships, where they were knocked out by England.
What are the problems facing Germany?
Analysis by Sebastian Stafford-Bloor
There are two different types of problem affecting Germany. The first is the issue with their national talent pool. That is a philosophical concern. The second relates to the structural issues within the team itself.
The absence of a true No 9 beyond Niclas Fullkrug poses a question without an answer. Against Japan, Hansi Flick began with Kai Havertz, who has often performed well for Germany but who is mired in a deep pit of poor Premier League form. Reliably, the Germany attack looked disconnected with his uncertain touch at its centre, and there were few moments of connectivity between him, Serge Gnabry, Leroy Sane and Florian Wirtz.
Inevitably, Havertz was replaced by Thomas Muller with 20 minutes to go. Muller remains a good player, but it was difficult to avoid the figurative step back on a night when Germany offered so little in the way of innovation.
What will have particularly concerned Flick – and the German public – was just how comfortable the Japanese looked without the ball. They faced little threat. Germany moved the ball up to and around their penalty box well enough but rarely infiltrated with any purpose. Rather than being forced into drastic action – lunging tackles, urgent blocks – Japan’s disciplined backline simply waited for those attacks to flounder, before snapping into sharp counter attacks. Eventually, those yielded the goals their performance deserved.
It is all so unconvincing from Germany; it always is now. The easy observation is to describe them as less than the sum of their parts. Clearly that is true – but it is accurate of them all over the pitch. Flick’s defence has often been porous. His midfield and attack has consistently failed to create chances in healthy volume. These are not new problems; these are issues which have become systemic within the national team and, increasingly, suggest an absence of self-belief.
Unfortunately, none of these poor results seem to inform anything – no improvement, no learning. Instead, each game seems to bring another experiment or a different configuration within some part of the side. Neither of which are particularly suggestive of any plan or grand strategy.
Germany are bad. But nobody involved with the national team seems even to know why, let alone how to make them better.
Why Hansi Flick was given a second chance by Germany
(Photo: Federico Gambarini/picture alliance via Getty Images)