Benayoun boasts of blue-and-white’s ability

Israel’s captain confident as Gutman’s squad prepares for tough World Cup qualification.

Yossi Benayoun 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
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 confidence.
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.
Israel’s 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 recently.
“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 great.”
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.
“This 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.”