Emotional striker Jermain Defoe dedicates 'one of my best international goals' to late cousin


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The Independent Football

After a European Championship in which he was forced to return home following the death of his father, Jermain Defoe last night dedicated his winning goal against Italy to his cousin Hannah Defoe who was killed in an accident in the Caribbean last month.

Defoe, who came on as a substitute after half time for Andy Carroll, scored with a spectacular shot with 11 minutes of the game left and said later: "That goal was for my cousin who died in St Lucia. It would have been her birthday today. It's one of the best goals I have ever scored for England."

The Tottenham forward added: "The main thing was to get a win. Even if you speak to the lads with more caps than me, every time you play you feel like you want to prove something. For a striker it is always important to score a goal and I am obviously delighted I could do that."

The 2-1 win, with another goal from Phil Jagielka, after Daniele De Rossi had given Italy the lead, was declared a successful experimental exercise by manager Roy Hodgson despite the limitations he placed upon himself in resting senior players whose club seasons start this weekend. He picked out the reintroduction of Michael Carrick to international football after two years without a game for England as a notable success.

Hodgson described the contribution of Frank Lampard and Carrick in midfield as "outstanding". He said: "You don't become a really good player overnight. You have to play an awful lot of football, a lot of matches, at the highest level. They've done that internationally and for two very important club sides. The quality of their play was very good and it was good for the youngsters to have those around them showing that composure on the ball.

"Everyone did well," Hodgson added. "I'm hard pushed to criticise anybody. There were a lot of very good performances and it was nice to see people like Tom Cleverley, Jack Butland and young Ryan Bertrand bringing that form and enthusiasm from the Team GB to our play."

Cleverley, one of five young players to get their debuts last night, said: "It was a proud moment, a big occasion in any footballer's life. I managed to get on the ball at times, they made it hard for me. There were some hard tackles and De Rossi is a very good player. Hopefully I have impressed the manager and can be called up again. I thought we controlled the game in large spells, I enjoyed that role, I know it. I played there against Senegal in the Olympics."

Carrick said of Cleverley, his Manchester United team-mate: "He was fantastic and I had no doubts that he would have a good game. I have seen him every day in training at United and know how good he is and, with his personality, he is ideal for the big occasion."

Looking at the game as a whole, Hodgson said: "It was worthwhile because it gave us a chance to see so many new players. It might have been different if we had used the same players who had been at the Euros with us. But it was great to be able to give some of the senior players a rest and to be able to blood some new players, some fresh talent and they answered the challenge in the best possible way with a great victory."