International Soccer: Benayoun a doubt for Greece clash

Liverpool midfielder and Israel captain to undergo medical examination today.

yossi benayoun 248.88  (photo credit: AP)
yossi benayoun 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
Five days before its crucial World Cup qualifier against Greece, Israel got its preparations officially underway on Monday evening, but the talk of the day remained Yossi Benayoun's fitness. The Liverpool midfielder reinjured his hamstring after returning to training last week and remains a doubt for Saturday. Benayoun will be examined by team doctor Mark Rosnovsky on Tuesday and the two will try and determine if and when he can join his teammates in training. The national team hosts Greece at Ramat Gan on Saturday before traveling to Crete to face the locals for the second time in four days next Wednesday. Greece is currently top of Group 2 on nine points, with Israel in second place with eight points, meaning the next two qualifiers are nothing short of critical to the national team's hopes of advancing to a first World Cup in 40 years. Dudu Awat and Benayoun were the final players to arrive from Europe on Monday, landing after the team held its first training session of the week at National Stadium in Ramat Gan. Awat is all but guaranteed of starting in goal on Saturday after returning to play regularly following his move to Mallorca from Deportivo La Coruna. The 'keeper believes the outcome of Israel's qualifying campaign will be determined over the next two matches. "The group will be decided over these four days," Awat said upon his arrival at Ben-Gurion Airport. "This is the national team's moment of truth. If we win we will climb to the top of the group and will give ourselves a very good chance of reaching the World Cup. "We believe we can beat them. Greece is a good team, but at home we must win. Four points from these two matches will be an excellent achievement." Substitute goalkeeper Liran Strauber is confident Benayoun will play on Saturday. "Even when Yossi isn't completely healthy he will score the goal if the other 10 players work for him," the Maccabi Netanya 'keeper said at a press conference. "Yossi would play in a wheelchair, without both feet and one hand for the 40,000 people at Ramat Gan. He makes the difference for the national team and together with the help of the rest of the players I'm very optimistic of our chances." Striker Omer Golan could well start up front on Saturday, but for the moment he's just looking forward to learning more about the Greeks and keeping a positive outlook. "We're feeling very confident and we need to show that on the field. If that happens it will be magical," Golan said. "We still don't know that much about Greece, but we will know them perfectly by the weekend. We're not considering the implications of the different results. We're just remaining as positive as possible."