Hair-trigger Gulf soccer ills

PARIS - In the hair-trigger soccer politics of the Gulf, the target is always clear.

PARIS - In the hair-trigger soccer politics of the Gulf, the target is always clear.

If Helio dos Anjos fails to take Saudi Arabia to the 2010 World Cup finals, he will be officially unemployed on the morning of June 23, becoming the 18th managerial casualty in the hottest of hot seats since 1994.

Money is no object in the oil- and gas-rich Gulf states, but just one mediocre performance is enough to test the patience of the demanding sheikhs who run the game in the region where a long list of reputations have been badly bruised.

Brazilian World Cup winner Carlos Alberto Parreira and Germany's Otto Pfister, who were in charge twice, are among those who have tried to repeat Jorge Solari's breakthrough achievement of leading the Saudis to the second round of the 1994 World Cup finals in their tournament debut.

Now it's the little-known dos Anjos who's in the firing line as the Asian qualifiers for the 2010 finals get serious on Wednesday.

The Saudis are in a group with Uzbekistan, Lebanon and Singapore and having reached the finals of the last four tournaments, they are expected still to be in contention once this phase ends on June 22.

"The name of the game is to win but it's a thin line," said former England manager Sir Bobby Robson when he surveyed the managerial wreckage of the 1998 finals in France.

"Look at Carlos Alberto Parreira. In 1994, he won the trophy with Brazil. Two World Cup final matches later, this time in charge of Saudi Arabia, he loses his job after a game in which he has a player sent off against the host nation in front of 80 000 fans." - Sapa-AFP