Yossi Benayoun is set to break the Israel national team appearance record of 94 as a substitute when the blue-and-white faces Mexico in Mexico City in an international friendly on Wednesday night.
The national team arrived in Mexico on Tuesday after spending the first half of the week training in Houston, Texas. Eli Gutman’s squad was forced to train indoors on Monday due to lighting storms in Houston and the players also met with children from the local Jewish community, handing out autographs and posing for photos with the adoring youth.
The team will return to Houston after Wednesday’s match at the Azteca Stadium ahead of next Sunday’s friendly against Honduras at the local BBVA Stadium.
Both Mexico and Honduras are preparing for their participation in the World Cup in Brazil, which gets underway on June 12, while Israel will be playing its final matches before it begins its Euro 2016 qualification campaign against Belgium at Teddy Stadium on September 9.
Israel was drawn into Group B with Bosnia and Herzegovina, Belgium, Wales, Cyprus and Andorra, with the qualifiers to be played from September until October, 2015. For the first time in the European Championships history, the tournament will involve 24 nations, eight more than previous events.
Therefore, the top two teams in each group will automatically qualify for Euro 2016 in France, with the best third-place finisher to also gain direct qualification.
The remaining eight third-placed teams will take part in play-offs during November 2015.
Most of Gutman’s squad has been training together since last Tuesday, but Benayoun only joined his teammates in the US this week after his club side QPR beat Derby County 1-0 in the English Championship playoff final on Saturday to gain promotion to the Premier League. Benayoun wasn’t even named on the substitute-bench on Saturday.
The 34-year-old Benayoun is currently tied with national team assistant coach Arik Benado on 94 caps. Gutman has snubbed Benayoun for much of the past year, with the midfielder’s last appearance for the blueand- white coming back in August 2013.
Gutman confirmed last week that Benayoun will break the record in Mexico, but he is expected to do so from the bench, with Celtic midfielder Beram Kayal likely to start for the blue-and-white for just the second time in the past year.
“I’m really happy to be back playing for Israel after the recent injury I experienced,” said Kayal. “We have some important matches ahead of us and this is a good opportunity for us to implement some of the things we have been working on in training.
“These matches will prepare us for September’s qualifiers and I hope we will be able to show our strong side in these friendlies as well as the qualifiers.” On TV: International Friendly:
Mexico vs Israel (live on Sport5+ at 4:30 a.m. Wednesday night/Thursday morning)