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Friday, Jan. 18, 2013

Saudi Arabia coach Rijkaard axed


DUBAI — The Saudi Arabian Football Federation fired Frank Rijkaard as coach of the national team Wednesday following a humiliating exit at the Gulf Cup.

The dismissal comes almost a year after the once-powerful Saudi side failed to advance in 2014 World Cup qualifying. Rijkaard, the former Barcelona coach who was given a nearly $16 million deal in June 2011, was supposed to return the team to the pinnacle of Middle East soccer. Instead, the four-time World Cup participants have fallen to 126th in the world.

They were routed 5-0 by Spain in September and the final straw came when team was dumped out of the Gulf Cup last week by lowly Kuwait.

The federation said it appointed Under-20 coach Sergio Piernas of Spain will take over the senior team on a temporary basis. He is expected to be in charge when the team plays China on Feb. 6 and Indonesia on March 22.

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