Benayoun named in Israel squad
Follow The JC on Twitter
Yossi Benayoun has been named in Israel's 25-man squad for the Euro 2012 qualifiers at the end of the month.
The Chelsea midfielder only resumed full training this week after undergoing surgery on a ruptured achilles, and Blues boss Carlo Ancelotti will not be pleased that the Israeli has been called up for international duty.
In naming Benayoun for the squads that will play at home to Georgia and Latvia, Israel manager Luis Fernandez said, "I've been in contact with Yossi since his injury and monitored his progress and he is back in training. I cannot do without him because he is part of the backbone of the team. I know he is not 100 per cent fit but he is the captain."
Benayoun had previously said that he hopes to be part of Israel's training camp next week but feels there is only a slight chance he will play. "Everything will be done with the agreement of Chelsea," he stressed.
Real Mallorca keeper Dudu Awat will captain the team on the pitch if Benayoun cannot play. With a dearth of defenders to choose from Tal Ben Haim has been included in the squad even though he has not played a competitive game for more than two months due to legal wrangles with West Ham and Portsmouth.
Fernandez is reluctant to forego Ben Haim's experience and the defender has assured the Israel manager that he has been training hard and is match fit.
"We'll take a look at Tal and see how fit he is and then decide," Fernandez said.
There is a recall for Dekel Keinan who has been impressive since moving to Cardiff at the end of January but there is no place in the squad for Bolton's defensive midfielder Tamir Cohen who has not played for the Trotters since January.
Even if Benayoun is unavailable, Israel has strong midfield options with Celtic's Beram Kayal in top form and Nuremberg's Almog Cohen whose two goals over the past month have helped push his team to sixth in the Bundesliga.
Other candidates for midfield places are Rubin Kazan's Bebars Natcho and Hapoel Tel Aviv's Gili Vermouth.