Wilfried Zaha rejects chance to play in African cup of nations

England new boy turns down Ivory Coast offer to join squad for January tournament

The Crystal Palace prodigy Wilfried Zaha has turned down the Ivory Coast's invitation to join their squad for January's African Cup of Nations in South Africa, with the Football Association increasingly confident that he will now commit his future to England having been called up to Roy Hodgson's squad for tomorrow's friendly against Sweden.

Zaha, 20, who was born in Abidjan and moved to England at the age of four, is eligible to play for both and has told friends that he will wait to see if Hodgson continues to select him next year before he makes his decision on which country to play for. Even if he plays some part for England in Stockholm tomorrow, he will still be eligible to play for the Ivory Coast.

He has been the subject of a concerted effort by the Ivory Coast football federation (Fif) to persuade him to play for his country of birth. He has been visited at home in south London by the president of the federation, Sidy Diallo, and been contacted by manager Sabri Lamouchi as well as Didier Drogba, who is currently in London ahead of the team's friendly against Austria in Linz tomorrow.

The Palace academy graduate, rated at £15m, was offered a place in the squad for the tournament in January and his decision to turn it down is the clearest commitment yet that he is prepared to play for England. His priority is to become a regular international for whatever country he chooses and that will inform his decision. However, he has told Fifa officials that he will not play for them unless he makes up his mind to reject England.

Stephen Browett, one of Palace's four co-owners, underlined the club's position yesterday that they did not wish to sell the player in January with the prospect of promotion to the Premier League still a reality. Nevertheless, the club is sure to be tested with all the top Premier League sides, including Manchester United, Manchester City and Arsenal, interested.

Get Adobe Flash player

 

The Fifa rules allow for a player to delay his final decision on which country he represents at international level. Article 18.1 of the Fifa regulations permit a player to change international allegiance providing he has not played "in an official competition at 'A' international level". Even if he was capped by England this week, Zaha could feasibly switch to the Ivory Coast as long as he did not play in a World Cup qualifier next year and made the change before his 21st birthday next November.

The former Palace manager Neil Warnock told The Independent yesterday the FA should do everything in its power to make sure that Zaha does not slip away from them as Chelsea's Victor Moses, another Palace academy graduate, did when he opted to play for Nigeria this year despite representing England at several junior levels after first arriving in the UK at the age of 11.

Now in charge at Leeds, Warnock believes England should not miss out on any naturalised players who have moved to the country as children. He said: "[Zaha] should have been courted by England, Stuart Pearce should have had him more involved in the Under-21s. I spoke to the FA about it at the time. It's no good waiting until he's playing for Chelsea. We're complaining about the amount of foreign players in the Premier League and we are losing ones who could play for England."

Generation game: England's experience

Euro 2012 squad

620 caps among 23 players, including one uncapped player, goalkeeper Jack Butland

Current squad

265 caps among 21 players. Roy Hodgson's revised squad includes seven uncapped players

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Stiller as Derek Zoolander in the leaked trailer for Zoolander 2
film
Sport
footballArsenal take the Community Shield thanks to a sensational strike from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
Arts and Entertainment
Gemma Chan as synth Anita in Humans
film
Arts and Entertainment
Ensemble cast: Jamie McCartney with ‘The Great Wall of Vagina’
artBritish artist Jamie McCartney explains a work that is designed to put women's minds at rest
News
Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump
people
Life and Style
tech
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen