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Africa Cup of Nations

Afcon 2021: Crystal Palace’s Roberts wants Zaha, Ayew and Kouyate back as soon as possible

12:49 PM GMT+4 01/01/2022
Wilfried Zaha, Jordan Ayew - Crystal Palace
The assistant coach explains his pain of losing three African players ahead of the continental competition set for Cameroon

Crystal Palace assistant manager Osian Roberts has revealed the pain of losing their players for the Africa Cup of Nations tournament in Cameroon.

The Eagles will miss the services of three players - Wilfried Zaha, Cheikhou Kouyate, and Jordan Ayew – when the 33rd edition of the Africa competition kicks off on January 9 and runs through to February 6.

While Zaha, who has so far managed five Premier League goals from 17 appearances, will represent Ivory Coast, Kouyate will turn out for Senegal and Ayew will feature for Ghana.

Their absence from the squad has left Roberts, who is sitting in while manager Patrick Vieira continues his isolation, hoping they return back to the team as soon as possible.

“We wish them all well in the Afcon,” Roberts said as quoted by the club’s official website. “It’s a really important tournament.

“I came here to Palace from the African continent, having been Technical Director of the Moroccan Football Federation. I know the great work that’s going on the African continent to aspire to be at the best level possible.

“We wish our players all the best out in Cameroon. We want all our players back as soon as possible, albeit if they are successful that might take a little longer.

“It’s an incredible tournament that we’ll be watching closely, but obviously we want the three players back in the squad as soon as possible for us.”

Roberts has, however, said in absence of the trio, it will give a chance to other players in the squad a good opportunity to show their qualities.

“That’s why you have a squad of players,” Roberts continued. “Every player has been carefully recruited by the club manager, to make sure of that.

“We knew this situation was going to arise at this time of the season. They are three important players we are going to miss over the next few weeks.

“But being aware of that, we have players who can step in and get their opportunity, like Jean-Philippe Mateta did. It’s important when the opportunity comes that they take that with both hands.”

Zaha’s Elephants have been drawn in Group E alongside Algeria, Equatorial Guinea, and Sierra Leone while Kouyate’s Lions of Teranga will be in Group B alongside Zimbabwe, Guinea, and Malawi.

Meanwhile, Ayew’s Black Stars have been pooled in Group C alongside Comoros, Morocco, and Gabon.