LYON, France (Reuters) - England coach Roy Hodgson will be strongly tempted to start with Jamie Vardy and Daniel Sturridge in attack against Slovakia on Monday after both 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 impression in the opening 1-1 draw with Russia nor in the first half against Wales.
Kane, the Premier League’s top scorer, had barely touched the ball in the opponents’ penalty area in either game.
Yet it took Vardy just 11 minutes to nab the goal that put England back on level terms, 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 told reporters 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.”
A win against Slovakia would seal victory 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.
England enjoyed the bulk of the possession in each of their first two games and Hodgson has deployed all his strikers, including teenager Marcus Rashford in the second half against Wales.
But they have looked less than impregnable in defense, conceding a late equalizer against Russia and a long-range Gareth Bale free kick that outfoxed keeper Joe Hart in the game against Wales.
Their 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.
Weiss tipped Daniel Sturridge, his former team mate at Manchester City’s academy, as a danger man for England.
“He is an extraordinary player, which can be seen both on the club and national level. On the other hand, all their players are quality. It is necessary to be ready for them all,” he said.
For Slovakia, playing in their first European Championship finals, 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.
Reporting by Mark Trevelyan; Editing by Ian Chadband