There was yet another late call-up for England’s friendly with Sweden this week as Crystal Palace striker Wilfried Zaha was given the international nod by Roy Hodgson.
For a friendly that many admit England could do without, there have already been plenty of withdrawals, including Wayne Rooney, Aaron Lennon and Theo Walcott this week.
Adding an attacking option for the Three Lions, Zaha – who is the first Championship player to get a call-up since Jay Bothroyd in 2010 – has received recognition for his fine form which has help Crystal Palace sit top of English football’s second tier.
Born in the Ivory Coast, it is being reported that Didier Drogba has tried to convinced Zaha to play for the country of his birth. In a bid to stop this happening, Hodgson has got in there first and given the 20-year-old the call.
Zaha has represented England at Under-19 and Under-21 level, but was undecided about his international future after contact from Drogba. The former Chelsea man wanted Zaha to represent Ivory Coast at the African Cup of Nations in January.
Although reports Louis Walsh took Zaha’s decision to deadlock have been denied, it seems as though England have won the race to call this highly-rated striker one of their own.
“Wow everything’s happening so fast” was the reaction of Zaha on Twitter and he will now hope to make an impact for England. After all, if he can help this international friendly an attractive prospect, he will have done very well indeed.
It may well be disappointing that some senior players aren’t involved, but it is always fascinating to see how a young, unknown to many player can do on the international stage.
There is a similar story behind the call-up of Carl Jenkinson too. The Arsenal defender has played for Finland at Under-19 level and is another that Hodgson wants to commit to England. This is perhaps as close as an international manager will get to wheeling and dealing in the transfer market!
Overall, this is a very different international fixture. There is no break from the Premier League and the England squad has a very inexperienced look to it. The last time England played Sweden – at Euro 2012 in the summer – they managed a 3-2 win and a repeat would be very welcome.
This fixture is perhaps more about some young players showing what they can do on the international stage.
Then, it is back to the Premier League. Or the Champioship if you are Wilfried Zaha.