Nine months before hosting Euro 2024, Germany have sacked manager Hansi Flick, the latest in a series of setbacks for the once-proud football nation.
Flick received his marching orders on Sunday, becoming the first head coach in German history to get the sack.
The termination came after a 4-1 defeat by Japan in Wolfsburg, the team's fourth loss in six matches since their embarrassing group stage exit at the Qatar World Cup.
Flick refused to step down after Saturday's humiliation, saying: "I find that we're doing well and I'm the right manager."
On Sunday, the 58-year-old told fans "I'll keep fighting" while signing autographs at a training session.
Hugely successful with Bayern Munich, the firing is an ignominious end for a manager viewed as the architect of Germany's 2014 World Cup triumph while employed as head coach Joachim Loew's right-hand man.
That Flick's refusal brought a first-ever sacking from the German FA (DFB) is symbolic of the four-time world champions' enduring woes ahead of next year's tournament.
- Germany to Bayern and back -
A defensive midfielder, Flick won four titles with Bayern before injuries forced his retirement at 28.
Flick had successful spells coaching lower-league clubs, yet it was as Loew's assistant from 2006 to 2014 that he gained prominence, helping Germany to five successive semi-final appearances at major tournaments.
He played a crucial role in the 2014 World Cup triumph, both as a tactician and a communicator.
A popular figure in the dressing room, he was also praised for his sportsmanship, telling the players to rein in their celebrations after Germany's 7-1 historic thrashing of hosts Brazil in the semi-finals.
Having stepped down as assistant coach after the 2014 World Cup, Flick spent three years as the DFB's sporting director before leaving the association in 2017.
After a brief stint as Hoffenheim sporting director, Flick joined Bayern as an assistant to manager Niko Kovac in 2019.
When Kovac was sacked just four months later, Flick took over Bayern on an interim basis, where he engineered one of the most remarkable turnarounds in club football history.
Under Flick, Bayern won the treble for the second time in the club's proud history, becoming the first side to win the Champions League undefeated.
His familiarity with senior Germany players helped him coax the likes of Thomas Mueller and Jerome Boateng back to their best form.
"Hansi played a hugely important role, especially with regard to my role in the team," veteran forward Mueller told the Bundesliga website at the time.
Later victories in the German Super Cup, European Super Cup and Club World Cup made Flick the first Bayern coach to win all six possible trophies in a single year -- and only the second manager after Pep Guardiola with Barcelona to achieve the feat.
- One win in six -
Despite another title in his second season with Bayern, Flick fell out with then sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic before deciding to take over Loew's role.
Now in charge of Germany, Flick appeared to pick up where he left off for Bayern. The coach won his first eight matches in charge while playing the high-risk attacking football which had been so successful at club level.
Cracks however began to appear after a run of four straight draws and a first loss, a 1-0 defeat to Hungary in Leipzig, in the lead up to Qatar.
Eliminated at the group stage in Qatar, Flick held onto his job, the DFB hierarchy saying he was the right man to lead the side at Euro 2024, the first time Germany will host the tournament as a unified nation.
Flick's Germany have played six times since the embarrassing exit, five at home, but have won just once, while losing to Belgium, Poland, Columbia and now Japan.
While Flick's successor will be charged with rebuilding the team's shattered confidence, the sacking is the latest body blow in an unprecedented crisis for German football.