Football

Zaha has no regrets over England snub

Wilfried Zaha insists he has no regrets over turning his back on England to pursue an international career with the Ivory Coast.

The Abidjan-born Crystal Palace winger won two senior England caps over three years ago but, as both were in friendly matches, he was able to switch his allegiance to his country of birth.

England boss Gareth Southgate had hoped to persuade Zaha to change his mind, but the 24-year-old was included in the Ivory Coast squad for the upcoming African Nations Cup and he made his Elephants' debut in a 2-1 pre-tournament win over Sweden on Sunday.

Zaha, who moved to London when he was four, said on www.fedivoir.com: "I went to England when I was young and I did not return home.

"So I did all my classes in my adopted country and it was most normal that I played for the England youth sides.

"But, for four years, I've had a lot of time to analyse the situation and take into account the requests of the Ivory Coast Association.

"So I made my choice. Now I want to play with the Ivory Coast.

"It is gratifying, firstly because I am proud to play for my country, and also because the Ivory Coast have quality players and have always been a breeding ground of talent.

"So I made the right choice and I don't regret it."

A long-term injury to former Arsenal and Roma attacker Gervinho makes the acquisition of Zaha timely for the Ivorians as they prepare for a difficult African Nations Cup title defence, starting with the opener against Togo on Jan 16.

"The addition of Zaha is a wonderful boost. His style is similar to that of Gervinho and we hope he can trouble opposing defences just as much," Ivory Coast Michel Dussuyer said yesterday. 
- WIRE SERVICES

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