Cote d’Ivoire coach Michel Dussuyer says the absence of Gervinho from the Africa Cup of Nations makes Wilfried Zaha all the more crucial for the team.
The Abidjan-born Crystal Palace winger recently decided to play for his country of birth rather than the senior England team.
With former Arsenal and Roma attacker Gervinho sidelined with a long-term injury, Dussuyer is relieved to have a player of Zaha’s quality ready to fill the void.
“The absence of Gervinho weighs heavily on us,” said the former Guinea and Benin coach. “However, the coaches and players have had some time to accept the fact that he will not be with us in Gabon.
“The addition of Zaha is, therefore, a wonderful boost. His style is similar to that of Gervinho and we hope he can trouble opposing defences just as much.”
Zaha moved to England at the age of four and has represented his adopted country at U19 and U21 levels. He also made two appearances for the senior England side, but those were friendly games enabling him to switch allegiances.
Cote d’Ivoire are in Group C with Togo, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Morocco, whose coach, Herve Renard, was in charge when the Elephants won the 2015 Afcon in Equatorial Guinea.