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Nov 13, 2012

Ivory Coast still keen to lure Zaha

Ivory Coast coach Sabri Lamouchi remains hopeful he can convince Wilfried Zaha to play for the country of his birth, even if the Crystal Palace star makes his international bow for England on Wednesday.

Zaha, 20, was a suprise inclusion in Roy Hodgson's squad for the Three Lions' friendly with Sweden and is expected to play some part in Stockholm.

But the winger, who was born in the Ivorian capital city of Abidjan before moving to south London at the age four, is still wanted by the Elephants.

FIFA rules dictate that a player can switch international allegiance as long as he has not played in a competitive fixture and Ivory Coast boss Lamouchi wants Zaha to do just that ahead of January's African Nations Cup in South Africa, and has even sent Chelsea legend Didier Drogba to try to persuade him.

"We've not decided on our squad yet but he is clearly very selectable," Lamouchi was quoted as saying in the Sun. "We have some way to go to convince him but I want to speak to him directly - and I know Drogba has already spoken to him."

Zaha himself himself was left stunned by the approach from Drogba, and admits that he is still undecided about his international future.

"I was born in the Ivory Coast but all I know is England,'' Zaha told national newspapers. "It's 50-50 at the moment. Didier Drogba called me and I was shocked, to be honest. He's a humble guy. I've been with England Under-21s and now I will have to make a decision.''

The talented attacker has previously won Under-19 and Under-21 caps with England, but the Ivory Coast Football Federation (FIF) is reportedly planning to send officials to speak with him.

Lille forward Salomon Kalou, who has won 50 caps for Ivory Coast, believes Zaha would have a better chance to win international silverware with the Elephants than England.

"I'm unhappy Zaha has chosen England - he is Ivorian and his place is with us," Kalou said. "He must remember it is not easy to play for, and triumph with, England."

Ivory Coast once again find themselves favourites for continental honours ahead of January's African Nations Cup, but it is a tag they have failed to live up to in recent years; the last time the Elephants triumphed in the competition was in 1992 and they have been beaten in two of the last four finals - including a shock loss to minnows Zambia earlier this year.

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