Wilfried Zaha was named to Ivory Coast’s provisional squad for the Africa Cup of Nations on Wednesday.
The Crystal Palace winger made the decision last month to switch international allegiance from England where he grew up.
Zaha only appeared for England twice. He was involved in a 2012 friendly match against Sweden and appeared once again in 2013 when England took on Scotland in another friendly match. Because both matches were friendlies, Zaha was allowed to commit his international future to his country of birth.
His inclusion in the squad means Zaha could miss up to six weeks of the English Premier League season for Crystal Palace. With three goals and six assists so far this season Palace, who also sit one spot above the relegation zone, will certainly miss the 24-year-old.
Despite being named to the Ivory Coast squad, England still hopes to secure his talents. With the Cup of Nations only weeks away, and training camp even closer, a final decision will surely need to be made soon.
Coach Michel Dussuyer is excited to see what Zaha brings to the table. With veteran winger Gervinho missing out on the tournament, Dussuyer hopes Zaha will prove to be a resourceful replacement.
“The arrival of Zaha is great news,” Dussuyer told reporters at a press conference Wednesday. “His profile is similar to Gervinho’s.”
The current African champions will report to training camp in Abu Dhabi on Jan. 2.
Dussuyer realizes that one of the challenges facing the squad in preparation for the tournament is that some players will have already been well rested while some, specifically Zaha and others playing in England, will need some rest before going to battle for their country.
Others named in the 24-man squad Wednesday include Manchester United defender Eric Bailly and Stoke City striker Wilfried Bony.
The defending champions open up the tournament on Jan. 16 against Togo before taking on DR Congo and Morocco in Group C.