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Wilfried Zaha releases statement defending decision to represent country of his birth

England chief Southgate had said he only wanted players “who are desperate to play for England” and claimed there was “this disappearing egg timer on him going to the Ivory Coast”.

Mills, meanwhile, a former Three Lions international, was more bullish about the 24-year-old's decision to reprsent the Ivory Coast on Tuesday, claiming Zaha – who won two England in friendlies between 2012 and 2013  had taken “the easier option”.

Zaha was born in Abidjan in 1992 and moved to England with his family aged four.

Thus, the Crystal Palace winger decided to release an official statement through his management group, Active Sports Management, who confirmed he had already made his decision to play for Ivory Coast before Southgate took charge.

The statement said: “In light of recent comments and reports questioning Wilfried’s desire or passion to play for England [we] feel it’s important to set the record straight.

“Wilfried did not impose a timescale or set a date by which he had to be selected by England, there was no ‘disappearing egg timer’. The ‘private’ meeting with Mr Southgate was very amicable.

“However, the fact remains that Wilfried made his decision to play for the Ivory Coast prior to Mr Southgate being appointed interim and subsequently permanent England manager.

“It was Wilfried’s personal choice and it was his right as a senior player to accept the opportunity to represent his nation of birth and that of his family heritage.

“His ‘desire’ or ‘passion’ should never have been publicly questioned for making that decision.

“Wilfried is very proud of his family and very proud to represent the Ivory Coast, most recently demonstrated by his performance against Russia.”

It most certainly was – just check out his goal!

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