Wilfried Zaha: Patrick Vieira surprised by doubts over Ivory Coast future

Wilfried Zaha in action for Ivory Coast
Wilfried Zaha has played for Ivory Coast at two editions of the Africa Cup of Nations

Crystal Palace manager Patrick Vieira is "surprised" by comments which have thrown Wilfried Zaha's Ivory Coast future into doubt.

Elephants coach Patrice Beaumelle has left Zaha out of the squad for this month's 2022 World Cup qualifiers, claiming the 28-year-old forward had asked not to be selected.

But former France captain Vieira said Zaha had told him he is still eager to play international football.

"He made it clear to myself about how much he loves playing for the national team and how proud he would be to go to the World Cup with Ivory Coast," Vieira said.

"He still wants to go to the international stage. I was quite surprised to see all these comments coming out in the last couple of days.

"What I know is that he still wants to go to internationals. We will support him and now it is up to the manager to make the decision about who will go."

Zaha has scored five goals in 21 appearances for the Ivory Coast since making his debut in 2017, having switched his international allegiance from England.

He featured in World Cup qualifying for the Elephants last month but will not play a part in their final two group games against Mozambique and Cameroon.

"A few days ago, Zaha sent me a message to say that every time he comes [to join up with Ivory Coast], he returns home sick," Beaumelle said on Thursday at a news conference announcing his squad.

"He asked me not to be called in November because he wants to reflect about his international future.

"I want soldiers, warriors who even with one knee on the ground will come to the selection. It is a message that I send loud and clear to each player."

Zaha has yet to respond personally, but quotes in a post on social media attributed to his brother suggested there may be disagreement between player and coach about a recent conversation.

Zaha omitted for crucial Elephants matches

Former Manchester United player Zaha last featured for the national side on 11 October, when he was substituted in the 74th minute of the 2-1 home win over Malawi - a result which gave the Ivory Coast a one-point lead over Cameroon at the top of Group D.

Just the group winners will progress to next year's play-offs for the tournament in Qatar, meaning one of the two African heavyweights will miss out on the World Cup.

Cameroon - who have never missed two consecutive World Cups since their debut in 1982 - are seeking a record eighth appearance for an African nation at the tournament, while Ivory Coast are after their fourth.

Both sides failed to qualify for the last edition in Russia in 2018.

Zaha missed Palace's first match after the international break at Arsenal on 18 October, but returned to Premier League action as a second-half substitute against Newcastle five days later.

If the winger does return to the Ivory Coast set-up he could be missing for the Eagles in the early part of next year, as the Elephants have qualified for the Africa Cup of Nations, which runs from 9 January to 6 February.

Ivory Coast's 25-man squad

Goalkeepers: Sylvain Gbohouo (Wolkite Ketema, Ethiopia), Badra Ali Sangare (JDR Stars, South Africa), Abdoul Karim Cisse (ASEC Mimosas, Ivory Coast).

Defenders: Willy Boly (Wolverhampton Wanderers, England), Eric Bailly (Manchester United, England), Sinaly Diomande (Lyon, France), Odilon Kossonou (Bayer Leverkusen, Germany), Emmanuel Agbadou (KAS Eupen, Belgium), Serge Aurier (Villarreal, Spain), Hassane Kamara (Nice, France), Habib Maiga (Metz, France).

Midfielders: Serey Die (Villarreal, Spain), Ibrahim Sangare (PSV Eindhoven, Netherlands), Jean-Daniel Akpa Akpro (Lazio, Italy), Jean Michael Seri (Fulham, England), Franck Kessie (AC Milan, Italy), Hamed Traore (Sassuolo, Italy).

Forwards: Maxwel Cornet (Burnley, England), Yohan Boli (Al-Rayyan, Qatar), Nicolas Pepe (Arsenal, England), Lago Junior (Mallorca, Spain), Max Gradel (Sivasspor, Turkey), Jean Evrard Kouassi (Wuhan Zall, China), Christian Kouame (Anderlecht, Belgium), Sebastien Haller (Ajax, Netherlands).