No stage fright for Spurs youngster Dier

Marseille (AFP) – Eric Dier repaid England coach Roy Hodgson’s faith as the midfielder shone the brightest among five Tottenham Hotspur team-mates in Saturday’s 1-1 draw against Group B rivals Russia in Marseille.

Dier’s thunderous 73rd-minute free-kick looked destined to fire England to victory in their Euro 2016 opener, but Hodgson’s youthful side failed to see it out as Vasili Berezutski snatched a stoppage-time equaliser at the Stade Velodrome.

“We’re very disappointed because I think we played well the whole game and then to give away the draw like that at the end… it’s extremely disappointing,” said Dier.

The 22-year-old produced a commanding performance as England’s holding midfielder, banishing any sign of nerves in his first appearance at a major tournament.

“The feeling I had out there was spectacular — the response I got from the fans was incredible,” he said.

“We conceded late, but apart from that it was the best England performance I’ve been a part of.”

Dier was joined in the England line-up by four club team-mates as Hodgson turned to Spurs’ homegrown core, which had threatened to help the north Londoners end their 55-year wait for the English title.

While their challenge petered out in the final few games, the success of the Tottenham quintet in France is likely to go hand in hand with England’s aspirations. 

Right-back Kyle Walker seemingly cemented his place at right-back ahead of Nathaniel Clyne, showcasing his attacking threat and tormenting Georgi Schennikov to twice create chances for Adam Lallana. 

“I thought we did everything right, we controlled the game. It had it all from us apart from controlling it at the end,” continued Dier.

“It’s not inexperience, it’s got nothing to do that. We didn’t see it out in the right way and it’s disappointing. 

“We’ve got to put this behind us, it’s gone,” he added, with England due to face neighbours Wales — 2-1 winners over Slovakia — in their next game on Thursday.

– ‘Bitter pill’ –

Hodgson’s youthful gamble delivered promising results with Dele Alli, who won the foul that led to Dier’s goal, and Danny Rose also acquitting themselves well.

Harry Kane, the Premier League’s leading scorer this past season, struggled operating as a lone striker, but with Hodgson naming England’s youngest squad at a major finals since the 1958 World Cup, there will inevitably be growing pains.

“We got so close to a victory that would have been a deserved victory. So to lose it in the final minutes, it’s a tough pill to swallow,” said Hodgson, who squad boasts an average age of 25.39 — the youngest in the tournament alongside world champions Germany.

Goalkeeper Joe Hart was almost in disbelief after Berezutski’s header sailed over him two minutes into time added on.

“He got a huge jump on Danny Rose. Not even Fraser Forster with his arms outstretched could have got there. 

“He lifted the ball over all of us. If you asked him to do it again, I don’t think he could.”

Wayne Rooney praised the performance of his youthful team-mates, but insisted the focus must now turn to Wales.

“For such a young team, we dominated the play really well.

“There were 10-15 minutes when we were a bit unsettled, but the goal settled us down.

“We had enough chances to win, the only negative thing was the goal.”

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