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October 1 2020 4.46pm

Will England live to regret snub of ZAHA?

June 1 2017

Wilfried Zaha

Wilfried Zaha

Martin Green looks into the performance of WILFRIED ZAHA this past season and whether England have missed a trick by letting him deflect to play for the Ivory Coast.

Crystal Palace beat Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal in the closing months of the season to pull off a great escape and avoid relegation.

Central to their revival under Sam Allardyce was the outstanding form of WILFRIED ZAHA, who emerged as one of the most exciting attacking talents in the league.

England could well live to regret letting him slip through their fingers as he decided to represent the country of his birth, Ivory Coast, after growing frustrated at being snubbed by successive England managers.

Back in 2013, ZAHA was the most hyped youngster in the land and Sir Alex Ferguson moved quickly to sign him for Man Utd.

Roy Hodgson followed suit and called him up to the England squad and it seemed like he would go on to be a superstar for both club and country. But the hype was to be short-lived.

ZAHA could not establish himself under David Moyes at Old Trafford and he was sent back to Crystal Palace, his boyhood club, after just half a season.

ZAHA’s England career followed a similar trajectory and he was restricted to just two caps, brief cameos in uneventful friendlies.

Despite rebuilding his reputation at Selhurst Park over the past few seasons, ZAHA was constantly overlooked by successive England managers. He decided enough was enough and elected to play for Ivory Coast, a decision made possible because he had never featured in a competitive match for England.

ZAHA has since been a revelation for Michel Dussuyer’s side and scored a superb solo goal in a recent game against Russia.

He has been equally devastating in the Premiership and his return of seven goals and nine assists represents a strong haul for someone playing in a relegation threatened team.

His pace, flair, dynamism, dribbling prowess and crossing ability have put him on the radar of Tottenham and Man Utd, but ZAHA chose to remain loyal to Palace by signing a huge five-year contract.

It was a real coup for the south London club. Bookmaker odds at https://www.sunbets.co.uk/sports/betting/Football now show Palace are all the way out at 9/2 to be relegated next season and are rated higher than Newcastle, Swansea, Burnley, Brighton, Watford and Huddersfield.

Palace will now build their side around him and the 24-year-old only looks set to get better. He could well develop into the sort of world-class player England so desperately need to improve their woeful recent record in big tournaments.

England have not progressed past the quarter-final stage of a major tournament since Euro 1996, and an inability to unlock stubborn defences has consistently let them down. That could be a stumbling block again as Gareth Southgate bids to win the World Cup in Russia next summer.

Breaching defences with his pace, power and trickery is what ZAHA does best. England have plenty of players with similar attributes, but right now none are in better form.

Chief among them would have to be Raheem Sterling.

On his day he is a world-beater and it is easy to see why he is the most expensive Englishman of all time, but he is very inconsistent and has rarely done the business for the national team. In seven international matches in the past year, he has not scored or recorded an assist.

Arsenal’s Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is another winger that struggles for consistency, as is teammate Theo Walcott.

Jamie Vardy and Daniel Sturridge have been deployed out wide, but the role does not come naturally to them and neither has excelled.

Andros Townsend has had some success there, but it is clear at Palace that ZAHA is the superior player. Right now it is hard to see any of them keeping him out of the England side. Their loss is Ivory Coast’s gain.

The emerging crop of wingers is not at ZAHA’s level yet either. Nathan Redmond has show flashes of promise but is a long way off achieving the requisite consistency.

Jesse Lingard has great potential but is yet to nail down a place in the Man Utd side, nor does he look likely to in the immediate future.

Had Southgate and his predecessors shown more faith in ZAHA’s abilities and made him a regular member of their squads, the team would now be able to call upon the talents of one of the best wingers in the Premiership.

It would be a bitter pill for fans to swallow if he were to light up the 2018 World Cup for Ivory Coast, while England crashed out due to a lack of quality from wide areas.

Author bio

Martin Green is an experienced sports writer and has covered football for many years. He is an England fan and has been impressed with ZAHA's performances for the Ivory Coast in recent months.

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