Wilfried Zaha receives England Under-21 call up

 

Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha was today handed his first call-up to the England Under-21s squad for next week's European Championship qualifier against Belgium.

The 19-year-old, former under-19 international, has been rewarded for his performances for npower Championship Palace that have seen him linked with a host of Barclays Premier League clubs.

There was also a maiden call for Hull midfielder Cameron Stewart, while Middlesbrough - who host next Wednesday's match at the Riverside Stadium - have two players in the squad, goalkeeper Jason Steele and defender Joe Bennett.

England will be looking for revenge against a Belgium side who inflicted the first defeat of their European Championship qualifying game.

They will be managed in the Group 8 fixture by Brian Eastick, who is deputising for England caretaker manager Stuart Pearce.

"This opportunity is something I regard as a privilege, as I do whenever I have been Head Coach of any England team," said Eastick, who was head coach for England at last summer's FIFA U20 World Cup in Colombia.

"Due to the environment that Stuart has developed within the Under-21s set-up, it will hopefully be a seamless transition for this game with continuity being maintained with regards to our principles of play."

He continued: "Stuart and I have had a good professional relationship having worked together closely during his five years at the FA.

"Last week, I sat down with him to discuss the overall plans for this get-together and careful consideration has been given to the make-up of both the senior and Under-21s squads.

"There are a couple of new faces in the group, with Crystal Palace's Wilfried Zaha and Hull City's Cameron Stewart coming in for the first time. They both deserve their opportunities after some impressive performances at club level."

Eastick added: "This match is very important to us and one we would dearly like to win, particularly after the loss we suffered away in Belgium back in November.

"That gave Belgium a lifeline in the group and they are now just four points behind us.

"Therefore, the importance of this game cannot be underestimated if we are to reach our immediate aim of winning the group and going into the play-offs."

Squad: Ben Amos (Manchester United), Jack Butland (Birmingham), Jason Steele (Middlesbrough); Joe Bennett (Middlesbrough), Ryan Bennett (Norwich), Steven Caulker (Tottenham), Craig Dawson (West Brom), Martin Kelly (Liverpool), Danny Rose (Tottenham), Adam Smith (Tottenham); Gary Gardner (Aston Villa), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Henri Lansbury (Arsenal), Jason Lowe (Blackburn), Josh McEachran (Chelsea), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal), Jonjo Shelvey (Liverpool), Cameron Stewart (Hull), Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace); Nathan Delfouneso (Aston Villa), Will Keane (Manchester United), Marvin Sordell (Bolton), Connor Wickham (Sunderland).

PA

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