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Banin dropped as Israel names newcomers to face Germany

© Reuters 2002

By Ori Lewis

JERUSALEM, Jan 21 (Reuters) - Israel coach Richard Moller Nielsen called up six newcomers and dropped his veteran captain Tal Banin when he named his initial squad of 16 to meet Germany in a friendly next month.

Of the six players, four have never been included in a national squad before.

The squad is the first named since Israel narrowly failed to qualify for the playoffs for the World Cup late last year and is a new-look set of players ready for the Euro 2004 qualifying competition.

Defensive midfielder Banin, 31, with 72 caps to his name and the regular captain over the past five years, will not be in the side to play in Kaiserslautern on February 13.

There were other well-established names also omitted from the 16 for training on Wednesday.

The four Israelis currently playing abroad, Eyal Berkovic (Manchester City), Haim Revivo (Fenerbahce), Idan Tal (Everton) and Avi Tikva (Young Boys Berne) were also not named but may be called up later.

The other players left out of the squad were defenders Amir Shelah, who has played a record 85 times for Israel, Alon Harazi (69 caps, younger but well established defenders Ofer Talkar, Oren Zeituni and Najwan Grayeb and young striker Yaniv Katan.

Nielsen appears ready to appoint Berkovic as his captain for the Euro 2004 competition.

The new faces include Maccabi Tel Aviv central defender Tal Ben-Haim, who has played only 15 times for his club's first team, while others making a debut appearance are striker Elyaniv Barda of Hapoel Beer Sheva, Guy Tzarfati from Maccabi Netanya and Hapoel Petah Tikva's Yossi Rosen.

Two other players have been recalled after a lengthy absence: Assi Domb and Shai Holtzman who have one and two caps respectively.

The match in Kaiserslautern will be the Israeli team's first-ever match against its rivals on German soil. The two teams have met twice before in friendlies, both clashes were in Tel Aviv in 1987 and 1997 with West Germany and subsequently Germany winning on both occasions: 2-0 in 1987 and 1-0 five years ago.

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