Benayoun among big names dropped

Ben-Haim, Shechter, Sahar also left off squad by Gutman ahead of Luxembourg matches.

YOSSI BENAYOUN 370 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
There were several notable absentees as Israel began its preparations for its 2014 World Cup qualifiers against Luxembourg on Monday, but there was one who stood out above all others.
Almost 14 years after making his debut for the national team, Yossi Benayoun was dropped from the squad for the two upcoming qualifiers against Luxembourg, on the road on Friday and at home next Tuesday.
Following the 1-1 draw at Azerbaijan and the humbling 4-0 home defeat to Russia last month that all but ended Israel’s hopes of reaching the World Cup after just two qualifiers, coach Eli Gutman decided to only call up players who play regularly for their club sides.
The biggest casualty of the new policy was the 32-year-old Benayoun, who is only four appearances away from equaling Arik Benado’s record of 94 and is also ranked second all-time with his 24 goals for the blue-and-white.
Gutman spoke to Benayoun over the phone to personally let him know of his decision and told him that he will be recalled when he plays more for his new club West Ham United.
Benayoun has so far made just two substitute appearances for West Ham and was an unused substitute in the team’s past two Premier League matches.
Gutman also dropped defender Tal Ben-Haim, who is still without a team and was left out of the squad for professional reasons for the first time since making his debut in 2002.
Ben-Haim also received a call from Gutman to explain the decision.
Itay Shechter (Swansea City) and Ben Sahar (Hertha Berlin) were also not called up by their former coach at Hapoel Tel Aviv due to their lack of playing time at their respected clubs.
While Benayoun and Ben-Haim refused to comment on being dropped, Nuremberg midfielder Almog Cohen was furious and took to Twitter to let Gutman know what he thought of his decision.
“I’m stunned that I wasn’t called up,” said Cohen, who played 90 minutes in each of Nuremberg’s past two Bundesliga matches.
“I thought that legionnaires who play will be called up. I was never given a real chance in this campaign. I was injured for the friendlies against Germany and the Czech Republic and wasn’t called up for the match against Hungary.
“I didn’t start against Azerbaijan and I only played one half against Russia after which Gutman told me that I played well but was being substituted because he wanted to play with two strikers.”
Cohen noted that he respects Gutman’s decision and that he wishes the team luck against Luxembourg.
“I’ll continue to work hard,” he added. “This is all God’s will and obviously I don’t deserve to be in the squad at the moment.”