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LYON • England coach Roy Hodgson will be strongly tempted to start with Jamie Vardy and Daniel Sturridge against Slovakia today, after both strikers came off the bench to score in the 2-1 win over Wales.
Former England striker Alan Shearer, now a TV pundit, has led calls for the pair to replace Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling, neither of whom made much of an impression in the opening 1-1 draw with Russia nor in the first half against the Welsh.
Kane, the Premier League's top scorer, barely touched the ball in the opponents' penalty area in either game.
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Yet it took Vardy just 11 minutes to nab the goal that put England back on level terms against Wales, while Sturridge found a way through a crowded penalty area to snatch the winner in stoppage time.
"Yeah, I'd be more than happy with that," Vardy said on Saturday when asked if he was hopeful of starting. "It's down to me on the training field to put the extra work in and hopefully dislodge one of the players if I can do."
Kane's lack of form in France has been attributed to his efforts for Tottenham in the Premier League title race. He has played 5,092 minutes of football in the past year, compared with 3,707 for Vardy and 1,812 for Sturridge.
The Spurs man scored two goals in his last seven games for club and country, while Sturridge has three in six and Vardy four in five.
A win against Slovakia would seal top spot in Group B and see England paired with one of the third-placed teams in the round of 16, giving them an excellent chance of advancing further.
A draw or loss could make things significantly harder, depending on how Wales fare against Russia.
There was pressure on Hodgson to go all the way in the tournament yesterday, when Football Association chairman Greg Dyke said the 68-year-old's future in the job would depend on how well the team fare.
"Clearly if you get to the semi-finals, that's success," Dyke told BBC Radio. "If we've played well and unfortunately lost against a good team or on penalties (in the quarter-finals) then that's a discussion that will go on."
Hodgson, whose contract is up at the end of the tournament, insisted yesterday that his future as England manager is a side issue.
"It's been raised before, so it makes no difference to me," he said. "On a regular basis the subject gets brought up: Do I want to stay? What should the FA do?
"We're only concentrating on the next game to see how far we can go, whether that's the last 16, quarter-finals, semi-finals or final."
England's biggest threat is likely to come from Slovakia's attacking midfielder Marek Hamsik, who laid on one goal for Vladimir Weiss and scored the other with a curling shot in his team's 2-1 win against Russia.
For Slovakia, playing in their first European Championship, the stakes in this match are high.
"This is what we wanted, what we came for, to prove something big and that we can be measured next to a team like England," midfielder Dusan Svento said.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE