Saudi Arabia sacks former Barca boss Rijkaard

MICHAEL CASEY AP Sports Writer Published:

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) -- The Saudi Arabian football federation fired Frank Rijkaard as coach of the national team Wednesday following a humiliating exit at the Gulf Cup.

The sacking 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 football. Instead, the four-time World Cup participants have fallen to 126th in the world.

It was 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.

Rijkaard is the second coach to be fired after the Gulf Cup, the region's premier tournament that ends this week when Iraq faces the United Arab Emirates in the final. Qatar fired Paulo Autuori after the team was eliminated without winning a match. The Qatar Football Association announced on Tuesday that Autuori's assistant Fahad Thani will take charge on a permanent basis.