Euro 2016: England are focused on winning group, says Hodgson

England manager Roy Hodgson speaks to Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere during the walk around at the Stade Geoffroy Guichard, Saint-Etienne yesterday (Picture: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire).
England manager Roy Hodgson speaks to Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere during the walk around at the Stade Geoffroy Guichard, Saint-Etienne yesterday (Picture: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire).
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Manager Roy Hodgson is ignoring the increased background noise about his England future to focus fully on his team finishing top of their Euro 2016 group.

Thursday’s enthralling last-gasp win over Wales made amends for the frustrating draw with Russia, sending the Three Lions top of Group B ahead of today’s match against Slovakia.

A draw in St Etienne would be enough to seal qualification to the last-16, but outgoing Football Association chairman Greg Dyke has suggested reaching the quarter-finals is the minimum requirement if Hodgson is to stay on as manager.

The 68-year-old’s contract expires in the summer, but Dyke, who leaves his role next month, believes it will be renewed if England have “done well and played well”, with reaching the last-eight perhaps enough for an extension, depending on performances.

The FA chairman’s comments dominated the news agenda on the eve of the match.

But Hodgson had no interest in such talk ahead of today’s encounter at the Stade Geoffroy Guichard.

“It has been raised many times before, so it doesn’t make any difference to me one way or another,” the England manager said.

“My contract runs out after this tournament, that’s a fact that everyone has known about now for the last two years.

“On a regular basis it gets brought up – should I stay? Do I want to stay? What should the FA do?

“Nothing changes in that respect, as far as I am concerned.

“For myself and for the players, there’s only one thing on our mind, really: it’s to win the next game and see how far we can go.

“Whether that happens to be the last-16, the quarter-finals, semi-final, final, who knows? That will depend upon our performances.

“We concentrate on what we can do and what we can do is to work very hard in our preparations to always make sure we’re ready for the game we’re about to play.

“That’s what we’ll keep on doing. One day, after our stay here in the tournament, ends, the FA will need to make a decision as to what they want to do with regards to the future.”

The FA’s decision would be easy should England fail to progress from the group – labelled by Dyke as a “disaster” scenario and one that seems as unlikely as the odds of 100-1 suggest.

The Three Lions merely need a point to qualify and there is the safety cushion of stuttering home in third, with four of the six sides that finish second bottom in the pool stage progressing.

A third-placed side would lie in wait should England finish top of Group B, with that last-16 tie slated to take place on Saturday at the Parc des Princes in Paris, just 34 miles from their Chantilly base.

“The important thing is to be there,” Hodgson said. “As Wayne (Rooney) just said, we would like to win the group.

“If that means Paris, that’s good, but all the venues are fine, so we don’t want to win the group necessarily because it’s Paris and it’s a little bit closer to our base camp.

“We really want to win the group because it means we’ll play against a third-placed team rather than playing a second- or first-placed team.

“Our motivation to win is there for all to see.

“I don’t see the fact if we were to win we play in Paris as anything other than a fortunate coincidence.”

Hodgson was more open and forthcoming than the press conference previewing the derby clash with Wales, with a pair of inspired half-time introductions turning that match around in spectacular fashion.

Jamie Vardy levelled and Daniel Sturridge netted the stoppage-time winner as England triumphed 2-1 in Lens, with those displays leading to a clamour for the duo to start against Slovakia.

Hodgson admits decisions have to be made when it comes to today’s line-up.

But the England manager does not think refreshing the team is key in St Etienne.

“I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary,” he said, before rejecting suggestions Tottenham striker Harry Kane is fatigued. “I think the players are in good shape.

“I don’t think it would be a problem if I want to keep very much the same side as we’ve played.

“But also there are players who would like to play and have been knocking hard at the door to play, so I have the option if I want to refresh because everyone is anxious to get their chance and anxious to show what they want to do.

“It’s really a question of what we would like to do rather than what we feel is necessary.”

McCall back at Bradford: Page 2.