LONDON • Roy Hodgson insisted that Marcus Rashford's dream debut for England came as no surprise, after the Manchester United striker staked his claim for a Euro 2016 place with a sensational strike in a 2-1 friendly win over Australia on Friday.
The England manager had claimed the world would be watching to see if Rashford could cope with the pressure of what amounted to a one-game audition for a place in his final 23-man squad for the European Championship.
And the striker smashed in a volley after 138 seconds to break Tommy Lawton's 78-year-old record and become England's youngest scorer on his debut as he opened the scoring at the Stadium of Light in Sunderland.
No player of such a tender age had ever found the net on his England debut and, at the age of 18 years and 209 days, Rashford is behind only former Liverpool star Michael Owen (18 years and 164 days) and United captain Wayne Rooney (17 years 317 days) in the list of the youngest scorers in an England shirt.
Hodgson, who has until Tuesday to axe three players from his 26-man provisional squad, would not confirm if Rashford had done enough to cement his seat on the flight to France. However, his glowing response to questions about the youngster suggested Rashford can dig out his passport.
"I am pleased with him," said the England manager. "He's done his chances of coming in the final 23 no harm. But he wouldn't have been in the 26 if I didn't think he had a chance.
"I guess (the debut goal) will chop a few trees down tomorrow. I thought Marcus did well - but I wasn't nervous about him or surprised how well he played."
Hodgson was pleased not only with Rashford's ability to switch to a wide role after Rooney came on in the second half, but also his evident chemistry with Manchester City's Raheem Sterling.
"There was good link-up play between him and Raheem," Hodgson said. "They don't have an awful lot of experience playing in that system but they were both very lively.
"When Wayne came on, Marcus played on the flank and showed what he could do there. He got tired late - but that's understandable."
England's coach admitted he had some vexing decisions to make as he whittles his squad down to 23 before Tuesday's midnight deadline.
"There'll be two or three more sleepless nights before I submit my list," he said.
Although Daniel Sturridge - who was not involved due to a calf strain - later told reporters he was fit to return to training, the Liverpool forward is likely to endure some anxious moments before Tuesday.
The good news for Sturridge is that, despite Rashford's emergence, Hodgson seems inclined to take both forwards.
"Daniel's a quality player," the manager said. "If it turns out the injury would mean he was unfit to play Russia in Marseille (in England's first match of Euro 2016), that might make a difference - but I have no indication it is serious enough to keep him out."
There were times when Australia dominated the game and Hodgson conceded it had been a "stern test" against the Asian champions. Rooney made it 2-0 in the 55th minute, before Eric Dier headed a ball into his own goal in the 73rd minute to help Australia reduce the deficit.
"It was a tough game, Australia are good, they're European standard," the England manager said. "But I was pleased with aspects of our play. We were dangerous on the break and I was pleased so many players who didn't start against Turkey (in the previous friendly) showed what they could do."
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN