Topping the group would open a path to a potential quarter-final against the likes of Portugal or Belgium and Hodgson admits that, with England’s progression still to be confirmed, he goes into the Slovakia game wanting to make changes, but wary of leaving himself exposed to the prospect of making a mess of his, and his team’s, hopes of success.
Jan Kozak’s side are in with a chance of reaching the knockout stages. A win over England would send them through to the second round as automatic qualifiers, while a draw would be enough to seal a top-two spot if Wales lose to Russia.
England’s attacking possibilities were underlined by the contributions of their goalscoring substitutes Daniel Sturridge and Jamie Vardy against Wales. Hodgson may well unleash the pair from the start against Slovakia and the hope is the last-gasp win in Lens will be a springboard for this young England team – and a cue too for Hodgson to continue with the positive approach that paid off in the end on Thursday. There may be other changes, too, with a possible first start at EURO for Jack Wilshere.
Hodgson’s dilemma is rooted in a desire to freshen his team and reward those, such as Jamie Vardy and Daniel Sturridge, who have rewarded him by delivering from the bench, as they both did so crucially when scoring goals in the 2-1 victory against Wales in Lens on Thursday.
Napoli midfielder Marek Hamsik was influential in the win over Russia, assisting the opening goal and scoring a fine second, and Slovakia centre-back Martin Skrtel says that the captain is an inspiration to the rest of the squad.
Slovakia have no fresh injury concerns so are expected to be unchanged from the win over Russia, meaning that they will most likely start in a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Hamsik, Vladimir Weiss and Robert Mak supporting Ondrej Duda.
For England, Hodgson also has his future to play for, so expect a full strength team for sure.
Hodgson insisted that Dyke’s contribution will not affect his approach in France.
“My contract runs out after this tournament, everyone knows about that,” Hodgson said. “On a regular basis the subject gets brought up: should I stay? Do I want to stay? What should the FA do?
“We’re only concentrating on winning the next game to see how far we can go, whether that’s the last 16, quarter-finals, semi-finals or final.”