When Hansi Flick took over as the new manager of Germany after the delayed Euro 2020 finals, it seemed like a match made in heaven.
The national team were in need of some fresh eyes at the top after 15 years of Joachim Low's reign, which, since the last taste of glory in the 2017 Confederations Cup, had long gone stale.
In Low's place would be his former assistant Flick, who was part of the set-up when Germany won the 2014 World Cup and fresh from a stunning spell as manager of Bayern Munich.
Flick, who led Bayern to six trophies in 2019/20 before adding the following season's Bundesliga crown, decided to leave the champions after 18 months, leaving him clear to take up the reins of the national team.
But a little over two years on from his first game – a 2–0 win in a World Cup qualifier against Liechtenstein – the 58-year-old was relieved of his duties on Sunday.
The final straw was a humiliating 4-1 home thrashing by Japan 24 hours earlier, their fourth defeat in five outings, and Flick becomes the first Germany manager to be sacked since the role was created in 1926.
The move comes with Germany fearing humiliation on home soil as they host the Euro 2024 finals next summer.
Flick's assistants Marcus Sorg and Danny Rohl have also been dismissed while a successor will be announced at a later date.
German FA sporting director Rudi Voller, who managed the team from 2000 to 2004, takes temporary charge of a team that faces World Cup runners-up France in Dortmund on Tuesday. He will be assisted by Hannes Wolf and Sandro Wagner.
German FA president Bernd Neuendorf said in a statement: “The committee agreed that the German national team needs a fresh impetus after the recent disappointing results.
“Going into the European Championship next summer, we need confidence and optimism in the country regarding our team.
“This has been one of the most difficult decisions I have had to make during my time in this role because I really respect Hansi Flick and his assistants, both on a professional and personal level.
“Sporting success is of the upmost importance to the DFB, which is why this decision had to be made.”
The writing looked on the wall for the beleaguered Flick following the demolition by Japan in Wolfsburg, which saw home fans booing the German team off at half-time, with some chanting “Hansi out” at the end of the match.
Junya Ito had scored first for Japan after 11 minutes, only for Bayern Munich attacker Leroy Sane to hit back for the home side.
Ayase Ueda finished from close range to restore Japan's lead midway through the opening half, before two late goals from Takuma Asano and Ao Tanaka sealed the win.
“The bottom line is that it was a well-deserved defeat. We had nothing up front in the second half,” admitted Germany midfielder Joshua Kimmich.
“We haven't actually played a good game since the World Cup. This has to give us pause and we have to question our quality.”
Voller himself said: “We are all a little in shock … a defeat like that hurts. We should all do some soul searching and think about it. What happens next, we'll see.”
Earlier on Sunday, Flick had told fans “I'll keep fighting” while signing autographs at a training session but what happened next was brutal, particularly for a German set-up that generally gives its coaches time to make their mark.
Flick's downfall seems all the more remarkable considering he enjoyed a flying start to his new role, winning eight games on the spin only for form to disappear steadily from there.
At the World Cup in Qatar, Germany were knocked out after one win from three group-stage matches that included another defeat against the Japanese – a 2-1 loss in Doha.
Flick's Germany have played six times since that exit, five at home, but have won just once, while losing to Belgium, Poland, Columbia and now Japan.
Oman, Costa Rica and Peru are the only teams they have beaten in the past 12 months.
With Euro 2024 kicking-off next June, whoever replaces Flick in full-time charge has little time to turn around a German team in the middle of an unprecedented crisis.