WOLFSBURG, Germany (AP): Germany was jeered by their home crowd Saturday after slumping to a 4-1 loss to Japan to pile yet more pressure on coach Hansi Flick, nine months out from hosting the European Championship.
The German defenSe allowed Japan a string of chances on the counter and the result highlights the lack of progress since a 2-1 loss to Japan played a key role in Germany going out of last year’s World Cup in the group stage. Flick’s team has not won any of its last five games and conceded 13 goals in that time.
“At some point, expectations and reality are so far apart that you have to accept that currently you aren’t good enough,” Germany captain Ilkay Gundogan told broadcaster RTL. “Perhaps we also think that we are better than we really are.”
Flick said he believes he is still the right coach for Germany and he was supported by Gundogan, who said he still trusts him. Another challenge comes Tuesday with a friendly against World Cup runner-up France.
Japan targeted Germany left-back Nico Schlotterbeck from the off. A low cross in the 12th minute allowed Junya Ito to score with a shot that appeared to take a deflection off Antonio Rüdiger.
Germany responded when Florian Wirtz found Leroy Sane in space to score, but conceded again almost immediately when Ayase Ueda finished off another move involving a cross from the right.
Flick tried to shake things up in the second half, introducing Brighton midfielder Pascal Gross on debut and giving Thomas Muller a game for the first time since the World Cup. Neither change had much effect and instead it was Japan who took total control.
Takuma Asano surged in behind the defense to score the third goal in the 90th and Ao Tanaka added another in stoppage time when he was left unmarked for a header.
The pressure has mounted on Flick not just because of Germany’s poor form — three wins from 11 games in the preceding 12 months — but also the release this week of a documentary series following last year’s poor World Cup campaign. The Amazon series showed Flick struggling to connect with his squad and complaining about a lack of support back home.
“I know that soccer is very dynamic and I can’t foresee what might happen,” Flick told RTL. “But from my side, and I think that of the coaching team too, we are trying everything to prepare this team well.”