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(photo credit: AP)
Yossi Benayoun said on Tuesday that he is willing to risk his health to play for Israel in the crucial World Cup qualifier against Greece at National Stadium in Ramat Gan on Saturday night.
The Liverpool midfielder hasn't played since injuring his hamstring more than two weeks ago and claimed to the media that missing out on Saturday's match would be the biggest disappointment of his career.
"I'm feeling much better now and I hope that in a day or two I will be able to train with the team. If that happens I will be able to play," Benayoun said at a press conference at Ramat Gan before jogging around the National Stadium.
"I had a little problem with Liverpool, which didn't really want me to come to Israel. But as long as I know I will be able to give 100 percent I will play, even if it means risking my health," Benayoun said.
Israel's hopes of qualifying for a first World Cup in 40 years very much depend on the team managing to defeat Greece on Saturday, with the Greeks currently leading Group 2 with nine points and the blue-and-white in second position, one point back.
Benayoun is the undoubted leader and star of the national team and despite not playing since March 3 is confident he can still be at his best on Saturday.
"Two weeks isn't that significant," Benayoun said. "There's no reason I shouldn't be able to run for 90 minutes, assuming I'm fit. I think I'm in the best form of my career.
"Everyone knows this is one of the most important matches in Israeli soccer history. The next two qualifiers against Greece are the most significant of the campaign. First of all, we need to win on Saturday, and if that happens we have an excellent chance of qualifying."
Maccabi Haifa defender Dekel Keinan believes that even if Benayoun is forced to miss the match, Israel has the firepower to compensate for the loss of their captain.
"Everyone knows how important Yossi is to us, but if he doesn't play, we have enough talent on the squad to replace him."
With four days to go before the Greece match, however, the early reports are optimistic that Benayoun will be fit to play, and if one thing is for certain, it's that he will do all he can to be on the field on Saturday.
"There's not much to do now, only to wait and see how I feel in the next couple of days," he said.
"I've been going through intensive treatment in the last couple of weeks and I'm almost fully fit, but sometimes it's still painful. I'm hoping for an improvement in the next two days."