Deciding to play international football for Ivory Coast over England was the "right choice," according to Crystal Palace's Wilfried Zaha, with the winger adding he did not regret it.
Zaha, 24, was born in Abidjan in Ivory Coast, but was raised in London starting at the age of four. He began playing in the Palace youth system at the age of 12 and has been twice capped for England in a pair of friendlies.
However, Zaha made up his mind to cap-tie himself to the country of his birth -- which will happen if he appears for the team at this year's African Nations Cup -- with Ivory Coast defending their 2015 title when the tournament kicks off in Gabon on Saturday.
"I left for England and I did not return to the country [Ivory Coast]. So I did all my schooling in my adopted country and it was most normal that I played for the England youth teams," Zaha said in an interview on the Ivorian Football Federation's website.
"For the past four years, I have had ample time to analyse my situation and to take into account the solicitations of the Ivorian Football Association.
"Now I have made my choice. Now I want to play with the Ivory Coast. It has been rewarding, firstly because I am proud to play for my country, then because the Ivorian selection has quality players and has always been a reservoir of talent. So I made the right choice and I do not regret it."
Zaha has already played in one friendly for Ivory Coast, a 2-1 win against Sweden on Sunday in which the Palace player set up the winner for teammate Giovanni Sio. He should be set to earn a second cap on Wednesday in a final pre-tournament friendly against Uganda.
Current England manager Gareth Southgate, who coached Zaha at the U21 level, made an attempt in December 2016 to persuade him to maintain his eligibility to play for the Three Lions.
"I want to be able to give the best of myself to the team and contribute with my teammates to winning more titles. I want to be able to offer the country a third Nations Cup, make Ivorians happy. That is my ambition in the short term. Then we need to qualify for the 2018 World Cup," Zaha said.
Ivory Coast begin Group C play against Togo on Jan. 16 and will also face Democratic Republic of Congo and Morocco in a bid to reach the knockout round.