• International football

England add Palace starlet Zaha to squad for Sweden

ESPN staff
November 11, 2012
Wilfried Zaha has been called up by England © PA Photos

Crystal Palace forward Wilfried Zaha has been added to the England squad to face Sweden.

Zaha, who turned 20 on Saturday, has been drafted into Roy Hodgson's squad for the friendly match on Wednesday after injuries to Wayne Rooney and Theo Walcott forced the Three Lions coach to look at reinforcements.

The imposing winger, whose pace and trickery have traumatised defenders in English football's second tier this season, has helped Palace to the top of the table with four goals in 15 appearances to date.

"Wow everything's happening so fast," Zaha said on Twitter.

The last outfield Championship player to be called up for England was then-Cardiff City striker Jay Bothroyd, who made a substitute appearance in a friendly against France in 2010.

Arsenal's Carl Jenkinson and Tottenham's Tom Huddlestone were also added to the squad on Sunday, as five players - including Rooney and Walcott - were forced to withdraw.

Palace manager Ian Holloway paid tribute to Zaha's burgeoning talent after seeing his side overcome Peterborough 2-1 on Saturday.

"It is wonderful to see such an exhilarating, exciting player - to run with the ball like that, and outrun people running without the ball, is amazing," Holloway said

Holloway's opposite number, Darren Ferguson, added: "[He is] the best player outside the Premiership, hands down. At times he was unplayable. Since the first time I saw him I thought he was going to go right to the top."

Hodgson has been keen to include young players in recent squads, and persuade those eligible for other nations to commit their futures to England. Jenkinson and Liverpool winger Raheem Sterling have both been drafted into Hodgson's plans despite interest from Finland and Jamaica respectively - while Zaha, who was born in Abidjan but has represented England at Under-21 level, could play for the Ivory Coast.

Zaha, who is reportedly a transfer target for the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City, noted on Saturday that he was considering representing Ivory Coast at international level, comments that may have sparked the FA into action.

He also hinted that he will consider his future at club level in January.

"I love it at Palace, the fans have got loads of love for me," Zaha said, according to the Daily Telegraph. "I don't need to think about anything else. When January comes, I'll have to decide.

"[My focus is on] getting through January, whether I'm going to stay with Palace or move, then I'll decide whether I'm going to go with England or the Ivory Coast."

Zaha is the latest in a long line of talented Palace academy graduates, following in the footsteps of Victor Moses - who left the club for Wigan before signing for Chelsea in the summer.

"It's true! Great honour for Wilf and for CPFC and our academy," CPFC2010, the consortium that owns Crystal Palace, posted on a supporters' forum on Sunday when reports of Zaha's call-up emerged.

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