Zaha Earns First England Cap

By: Elaine Brand |
12/11/12 |
Wilfried Zaha

Image: PA Photos

Crystal Palace forward Wilfried Zaha has won his first England call-up.

The 20-year-old wide-man has been elevated into Roy Hodgson’s thinking after five players withdrew from the squad to play against Sweden.

He is the first Championship outfield player to be called up since Jay Bothroyd in 2010.

Arsenal’s Carl Jenkinson and Tottenham’s Tom Huddlestone are also in the squad for Wednesday’s friendly.

Wayne Rooney, Theo Walcott, Jonjo Shelvey, Kyle Walker and Aaron Lennon have all been ruled out.

Zaha made his Palace debut in March 2010 and has played for England at U19 and U21 levels.

He has been on the radar of a host of Premier League clubs since starring in Crystal Palace’s League Cup win at Manchester United last October.

His sensational form this season has helped the Eagles to the reach the summit of the Championship table after 16 games.

“Have I seen anybody like him? No, not in my whole career I haven’t,” Crystal Palace manager Ian Holloway told BBC Football Focus.

“He does it both ways, with his left and with his right [foot]. He lures you in and teases you, and before you know it he’s done something.”

“It’s almost like when I was growing up, with the Harlem Globetrotters. He can do it all with the ball at his feet, but he also has a modern-day athleticism that is second to none.”

Crystal Palace co-chairman Stephen Browett congratulated Zaha on his call-up.

“It’s a great achievement for Wilfried, who celebrated his 20th birthday on Saturday,” he told BBC Sport.

“He’s been at Palace since the age of 12 and we’re all very proud of him. A shining advertisement for our wonderful Academy.”

Zaha was born in Abidjan, Ivory Coast and moved to south London with his family when he was four years old.

According to Monday’s Daily Mail, his England call-up followed two hours of “frantic negotiations” between the player’s representatives and the Football Association.

Zaha was reportedly torn after taking a call from Ivory Coast captain Didier Drogba on Wednesday urging him to play for the country of his birth in the Africa Cup of Nations in January.

After his place in the England squad was confirmed, Zaha said on Twitter: “Wow everything’s happening so fast.”