England boss Gareth Southgate revealed that he understood the decision of Wilfried Zaha to represent Ivory Coast as he prepares to face England at Wembley. Zaha won two caps for England before switching to his country of birth. He did so in 2016 as both his appearances for England came in friendly games while he was still a Palace player. The Crystal Palace forward was born in Abidjan before moving to London at the age of four. He has 26 caps for the African nation and has three African Cup of Nations appearances under his belt.
“He’s a talent. He’s a good player playing at a high level every week,” England boss Gareth Southgate said about Wilfried Zaha. “He felt the Ivory Coast was the route to go and I totally understood that. It’s hard to say what his role might have been with us. Raheem has been a key part of our team for a long period, Jesse Lingard had done a fabulous job and, at the start, we had Adam Lallana, who was our player of the year for the first 18 months or so. “
“When we had him with the under-21s he was in the middle of a very difficult spell both with Manchester United and then on loan with Cardiff,” he added. “I remember being asked at the time – and we were asked about a few different cases – and I said players have to have the desire to play for England. That was slightly tweaked a bit, I would say, so that created a little bit of an atmosphere with Wilf and [Palace chairman] Steve Parish for a while. That wasn’t an insinuation on Wilf – you couldn’t have a more passionate player as anyone who follows Crystal Palace knows.”