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Jul 3, 2011

Rijkaard appointed Saudi Arabia coach

Former Netherlands and Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard has been named the new coach of the Saudi Arabia national team after signing a three-year deal.

Rijkaard, 48, steps into the Green Falcons hotseat after a deal for Brazilian Ricardo Gomes fell through last month because of a disagreement about his start date.

The Asian Football Confederation confirmed Rijkaard's appointment on its official wesbite and the Dutchman, who guided Barca to the 2006 Champions League title, will immediately get to work on planning Saudi Arabia's progress to the 2014 World Cup.

"We have our goals," Rijkaard said. "We hope this will be the kick-off of a very successful period. As every journey, you start with the first step. That's what we made today. From now on, we will be planning.''

Rijkaard's task is to transform the fortunes of a foundering national team; the three-time continental champions failed to qualify for the 2010 finals and also underachieved at this year's Asian Cup, where they were eliminated at the group stage and sacked two coaches in two games.

The former Ajax and Milan midfielder, who has been out of work since leaving Galatasaray by mutual consent last year, will be working under one of the most notoriously impatient football federation's in world football.

Saudi Arabia have astonishingly seen 34 coaches come and go over the past 25 years, meaning that Rijkaard will need some positive results sooner rather than later.

The Green Falcons take on Kuwait in a friendly next week, before facing a two-legged World Cup qualifying clash with Asian minnows Hong Kong at the end of July.

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