Israel coach Eli Gutman was in a reflective mood on Tuesday evening as he explained his decision to drop captain Yossi Benayoun from the national team’s squad for its upcoming 2014 World Cup qualifiers against Luxembourg.

Gutman spoke candidly, and at length, at the blue-and-white’s training complex in Shefayim about the position he finds himself in after Israel saw its hopes of qualifying for the World Cup disintegrate following a draw in Azerbaijan and a humiliating 4-0 thrashing at the hands of Russia at National Stadium in Ramat Gan last month.

“We lost our honor against Russia, both with the result and the performance,” Gutman said. “We are entering the two qualifiers against Luxembourg with the aim of regaining our honor and my players are united and understand what rests on their shoulders.”

Gutman was widely expected to make changes to his squad ahead of the upcoming matches against Luxembourg, on the road on Friday and at home next Tuesday.

However, he surprised everyone by completely overhauling the team, dropping the likes of Yossi Benayoun, Tal Ben-Haim, Itay Shechter and Ben Sahar due to their lack of playing time for their respected club sides.

“One of my conclusions from the first two qualifiers was that there is no substitute for playing time,” Gutman said. “That includes Benayoun and any other player regardless of his name. Benayoun is undoubtedly one of the greatest players in Israeli soccer history and I therefore gave him the respect he deserves by calling him and personally letting him know of my decision.”

Gutman revealed that Benayoun was far from happy with the news.

“Yossi accepted it, but he wasn’t pleased about it,” he said. “He let me understand that he really wants to play for the national team, but he accepted the decision.

“I’m not looking to hurt anyone. This is a totally professional decision.”

Gutman also dispelled any notion that he will quit should Israel fail to defeat Luxembourg in both qualifiers.

“I expected to pick up four points from our first two matches, but we failed and that was disappointing,” Gutman admitted. “However, that only gives me more motivation and energy. I will judge my work at the end of the campaign.

“When I sign a contract I complete it. I am the Israel coach until the end of the campaign regardless of how many points we collect.”

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