Crystal Palace forward Wilfried Zaha has been named in Ivory Coast’s provisional squad for the Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon next month.
The news confirms reports that the Eagles winger has switched allegiance to the Elephants from England, who he represented on two occasions. Zaha appeared for the Three Lions in friendlies against Sweden and Scotland in 2012 and 2013 respectively, but was able to switch allegiance to the country of his birth having never played a competitive international for England.
It was reported by various news outlets that England manager Gareth Southgate had held meetings with the in-form wide man to convince him that he still had a future with the national team, despite being frozen out of the set-up since 2013. Before he was sacked as Palace boss, Alan Pardew publicly suggested that Zaha should focus on earning a recall to the England side, while Pardew’s successor, Sam Allardyce, commented that it would be a “huge blow” to lose his key man for the beginning of 2017.
Zaha to join squad late
The statement confirming the news on Palace’s official website said, “Ivory Coast are holding a preparation training camp ahead of the tournament which runs from 2nd – 11th January however the Ivory Coast Federation have agreed that Zaha can remain at the club for Palace’s fixture against Swansea City next Tuesday 3 January and meet up with the squad the following day.”
The tournament commences on 14 January, the same day that Palace travel to West Ham United – the first league match that they will be without Zaha. The winger could make his competitive international debut for the Elephants in their first group match against Togo on 16 January where he could face former Palace teammate Emmanuel Adebayor.
Zaha has three goals in 17 Premier League appearances this season.