Int'l Soccer: Benayoun expected to recover by Wednesday game

The Liverpool midfielder was forced to leave Saturday's match against Greece after pulling a muscle in his leg.

benayoun 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
benayoun 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Yossi Benayoun didn't train with his Israel teammates on Sunday, but is expected to be fit for Wednesday's crucial World Cup qualifier against Greece in Crete. The Liverpool midfielder, who had been out with an hamstring injury in recent weeks, started in Saturday's 1-1 draw against Greece at National Stadium in Ramat Gan, but was forced to leave the pitch in the 77th minute after pulling a muscle in his leg. However, despite his injuries and not training on Sunday, coach Dror Kashtan is optimistic his captain will be fit for Wednesday's match. "I'm one million percent certain I should have played," Benayoun said after hobbling out of Saturday's match. "With the way the match developed I was happy to settle for a draw. We didn't look very good in the first half, but we fought back. If we would have started the match the way we ended it we would have won." A loss at Greece on Wednesday will be a fatal blow to Israel's hopes of qualifying for a first World Cup in 40 years, but Benayoun is hopeful the team can keep its campaign alive in Crete. "I really hope we win in Greece," he said. "But in a certain situation a draw will also be a pretty good result." Theofanis Gekas, who scored the Greeks' opener in Ramat Gan, which was canceled out in the second half by Omer Golan, was disappointed after Saturday's match. "We could have done better," he said. "This is a good result, but not a fair one. We had a chance to win, but made mistakes. "We're now concentrating on winning on Wednesday. The group is close and we need the three points." Israel's best player on Saturday, Ben Sahar, said he believes the national team can ruin the Greeks plans. "We missed a chance to claim a win at home," Sahar said. "But we have another chance to take three points on Wednesday and we can do it." Israel's Under-21 national team suffered a setback in its qualifying campaign for the 2011 European Championships on Sunday after being held to a disappointing 1-1 draw by Kazakhstan at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium in Haifa. Maor Buzaglo gave Israel the lead in the 44th minute, but despite going down to 10-men in the 47th minute, Kazakhstan equalized 15 minutes later through Ruslan Kenetaev and held on for the draw. Israel faces Bulgaria on June 10 in its next qualifier in Group 6, which also includes Sweden and Montenegro.