Eight days after losing Arsenal loanee Folarin Balogun to the United States, the Nigeria Football Federation has been dealt another heavy blow as Crystal Palace midfielder Eberechi Eze was on Wednesday called up to the England squad for their upcoming Euro 2024 qualifiers against Malta and North Macedonia.
Eze, an English player of Nigerian descent, had represented England’s U-21 team, but by virtue of his Nigerian parents is eligible to play for Nigeria at the senior level.
The 24-year-old, who trained with the Super Eagles before a cancelled friendly against Burkina Faso in March 2017, has been a target for the three-time African champions in recent years.
In 2019, former NFF president Amaju Pinnick intensified efforts to ensure the then Queen Park Rangers man switched his international allegiance to Nigeria by meeting with the player in London.
Speaking on The Beautiful Game on YouTube in 2020, Eze said he would take a decision on his international future at the right time.
“I won’t make any decision on my international career until it is time, until I feel like it is right. I don’t want to make a rush decision, as much as it would be a privilege to play for either (Nigeria or England). It would be a great honour,” Eze said.
“I spoke to them (The NFF),” the midfielder added. “But again, I am just enjoying my football right now and I don’t want any added pressure on my mindset. I don’t want to focus on the wrong things. I want to focus on what has got me to this position, continue doing it and wherever it takes me, it takes me.”
The latest report on Wednesday confirmed that the forward was among the 25 players invited by manager Gareth Southgate for the Euro 2024 qualifiers.
On the Palace star, Southgate said, “We’ve liked him for a long time. He was very unfortunate just before the Euros, we were going to call him in and he got an injury on the day.
“He has finished the season really strongly. He can play in a couple of positions across the attacking line.
“Everyone I speak to talks brilliantly about him as a person.”