Israel name Benayoun skipper
By Phil Jackson
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
West Ham's Yossi Benayoun is Israel's new captain for the Euro 2008 qualifying campaign.
West Ham United midfielder Yossi Benayoun has been named as the Israeli national side's new captain for the Euro 2008 qualifier away against Estonia next month.
The 26-year-old former Maccabi Haifa winger has attracted interest from Liverpool and Arsenal for his services after a stellar season for both club and country.
Benayoun was part of the Israeli team which narrowly missed out on qualification for this summer's World Cup in Germany to Switzerland and France.
But new coach Dror Kashtan has come in and made some sweeping selection changes in an attempt to earn the team their safe passage to a major tournament for the first time since the World Cup in 1970.
"It is time to change the perception because we have not qualified for any major finals for so long," Kashtan explained.
Benayoun is one of only four non-domestic based players in the squad, alongside Deportivo La Coruna goalkeeper Dudu Awate and Bolton Wanderers duo Tal Ben Haim and Idan Tal.
Former captain Avi Nimni of Maccabi Tel Aviv has been left out, along with veteran Maccabi Haifa defenders Alon Harazi and Arik Benado.
Argentine-born striker Roberto Colautti of Maccabi Haifa is waiting for his status as an Israeli citizen to be confirmed before his place in the squad is assured.
But Israel find themselves in a tough qualifying group with favourites England, Croatia, Russia, Estonia, Macedonia and Andorra.