Yossi Benayoun 370.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israel captain Yossi Benayoun claimed on Monday that the blue-and-white’s
current squad is the most talented he has played with since making his
international debut in 1998.
The national team held on Monday its first
training session ahead of its 2014 World Cup qualification opener at Azerbaijan
on Friday and both Benayoun and coach Eli Gutman exuded
Israel, which is dreaming of reaching its first World Cup
since 1970, will face Portugal, Russia, Northern Ireland, Azerbaijan and
Luxembourg in Group F, with only the group winner to automatically qualify for
the tournament in Brazil, while the eight-best runners-up from the nine
qualifying groups will play-off for the remaining four spots.
hopes of progressing to the World Cup look to be extremely slim even when you
don’t take into account its worrying form in recent friendly matches, but
Benayoun and Gutman believe there is reason for optimism ahead of the trip to
Azerbaijan and next Tuesday’s home match against Russia.
“I always said
that the national team can’t be built around a single player and I think that
the main difference this time is that the current squad has more talented
players, especially in the attacking positions, than it has had previously in my
14 years of involvement,” said Benayoun.
“I think that is a big
advantage. Playing with these types of players is so much fun. I will always be
ready to contribute whenever called upon. It is clear to everyone that the goal
is to win regardless of whom actually plays.”
Benayoun also spoke of his
loan move to West Ham from Chelsea and his lack of playing time
“My main goal when looking for a new team was to find one at
which I will play,” Benayoun said. “It was clear to me from the end of last
season that I would not remain at Chelsea and I just had to wait for the right
team to come along. I feel that I’m in excellent form.
Because I didn’t
play in recent matches and have been training a lot harder and I feel
Gutman also didn’t sound too concerned with the fact that the
likes of Benayoun, Itay Shechter and Tal Ben- Haim have not seen a single minute
of action on the field since the start of the season.
“It is not as if we
are already in November or December that you can say a certain player isn’t
playing regularly,” Gutman said. “I have no doubt that the players who aren’t
playing are professionals and are training well, although ideally of course I
would like my players to play as much as possible.”
Gutman revealed that
he has already got a game-plan in mind for the match in Azerbaijan.
is the first time that I feel that an entire country is behind my team and that
support will give us a push,” Gutman said. “I know everything about Azerbaijan
and I know what kind of match they would like to see develop.
The key to
success will be to control the tempo of the match. We will need to make the
right decisions and we have the players to do that.”