As Ivory Coast begin their 2023 Africa Cup of Nations, fans are left wondering about the absence of star player Wilfried Zaha, who will not be participating in the tournament as his nation vies for their third title in 2024.
Born in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, the 31-year-old moved to England at the age of four. Though he represented England twice, he never played in a competitive match, allowing him to switch allegiance and play for the Elephants.
Since joining the Ivory Coast national team in 2016, Wilfried Zaha has made 31 appearances, scoring five goals. However, he won’t be contributing this January as coach Jean-Louis Gasset leads the team into the 2023 campaign, beginning with a 2-0 victory over Guinea-Bissau in Abidjan on January 13.
The exclusion of Wilfried Zaha from the 27-man Ivory Coast squad is surprising, considering his role at Galatasaray since his move from Crystal Palace last summer. Having scored six Super Lig goals and even found the net in the Champions League against his former club, Manchester United, Zaha’s omission raises questions.
Head coach Gasset, in justifying the decision, stated, “It was a very difficult decision to take but we already have an exciting squad that boasts of many right wingers. It’s a pure coach’s decision.”
Gasset explained that discussions with notable figures like Aime Jacquet, Didier Deschamps, and Herve Renard influenced his decision. Despite the tough call, he emphasised the ultimate importance of results and acknowledged that only time would tell if it was the right choice.
As Ivory Coast enters the competition without Zaha, fans and pundits will be closely watching to see the outcome of this decision in the coming matches.