AFCON 2023: Why Zaha was dropped by Ivory Coast

  • The versatile winger will miss out on the competition being hosted on home soil for the first time since 1984.

Ivory Coast manager Jean-Louis Gasset has explained the reason behind leaving Wilfried Zaha out of the hosts' final Africa Cup of Nations squad.

Zaha who was initially listed in the 54 preselected list last week will ultimately not participate in the 34th edition of the Africa football fiesta happening on his home soil next month.

The Galatasaray winger has barely featured for the Elephants this year, appearing in only two friendlies and missing their AFCON qualifiers and last month's first round of World Cup qualifying. For his club though, he has featured in 20 matches so far this season, scoring six goals and providing two assists. 

On Thursday at a press conference, Gasset unveiled his 27-man team to the tournament, including the injured duo of Sébastien Haller (Borrusia Dortmund) and Simon Adingra (Brighton). Former Arsenal winger Nicolas Pépé returned to join regulars like Serge Aurier, Seko Fofana, Franck Kessié, Ibrahim Sangaré, Jonathan Bamba and Evan Nicka.

Gasset justifies sidelining Zaha

“It was a very difficult decision to take but we already have an exciting squad that boasts of many right wingers. It’s a pure coach’s decision,” the 70-year-old coach said at a press conference. 

Gasset’s decision has been hailed by the public because the former Crystal Palace winger is deemed to have caused a certain level of weariness in the ranks amongst supporters. Former Ivory Coast international Guy Demel was undoubtedly satisfied with the coach’s decision,

“For Zaha, it is not me who makes the decision, but if it was me who made it, I tell you clearly, I would not take (him),” said Demel. “He has not been consistent with the national team, and it's been quite disturbing that there are things happening off the pitch as well,” he explained, referring to the fracas between the 31-year-old and Gasset’s staff, also pointing to the multiple excuses he gave when it comes to playing for the national team.

Team over individual, Gasset insists

The manager said he stands by his decision. According to him, his choice to put his team over individuals stems from valuable lessons he picked from some of his French compatriots.

“I tried to favor sports and group life. I have had discussions with illustrious people like Aimé Jacquet, Didier Deschamps, and Hervé Renard, who made strong choices at times, and only the result matters at the end of the day. In the end, we will get to know if it was a good or a bad decision at the end of the competition,” he explained.

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Rotimi Akindele

Rotimi Akindele is a Sports Journalist with almost two decades' experience. He is a TV and radio host, commentator and writer who has covered major sporting events across the globe. Akindele's sports content has been listened to and read by a global audience. He is a well-known figure within Nigeria and the African football scene.