Hodgson's striker dilemma
England boss' selection headache has worsened after Rashford's star turn
(Marcus Rashford 3, Wayne Rooney 55)
(Eric Dier 75-og)
Roy Hodgson is drawing envious glances from all over Europe.
The England manager has a dilemma that's giving him "sleepless nights", as he prepares to name his 23-man squad for next month's European Championship.
Marcus Rashford has left him with a splitting headache.
Hodgson wasn't counting on the 18-year-old striker to score 138 seconds into his international debut, a goal that set England on their way to a 2-1 win over Australia in a friendly yesterday morning (Singapore time) at the Stadium of Light in Sunderland.
Until then, Rashford looked likely to end up as one of the sacrificial lambs in the striker's department when he trims his Euro 2016 squad from the current 26 to 23 by the deadline on Tuesday.
Now, it no longer looks a clear-cut decision.
The competition for places among the forwards has reached white-hot level.
Rashford has the unenviable task of probably having to oust one in the group of Harry Kane, Jamie Vardy, Daniel Sturridge or Wayne Rooney to join the party in France.
Take all five forwards and the England boss runs the risk of having too many cooks across the Channel.
After yesterday's win, Hodgson, 68, said: "I'll have two or three more sleepless nights turning everything over in my head before I have to submit my list."
Manchester United's Rashford makes a strong case for his inclusion.
His rawness suggests an unpredictable beast in the minds of opposing defenders.
What a goal it was against the Socceroos, a volleyed strike on the run off a deflected cross that fell onto his path.
His captain for club and country then reminded Hodgson of the abundance of quality he has up front.
Rooney, 30, came on in the second half, but was unexpectedly slotted into the central striking spot instead of the No. 10 position, with Rashford moved to the wide-forward role.
As England debates over whether their skipper should start the tournament, Rooney silenced at least his doubters with his 52nd international goal nine minutes after his introduction.
A frustrating season at his club may have dulled his mood but it hasn't blunted his instincts.
From just outside the penalty box, he thumped home a beauty that snuffed out any comeback hopes for Australia, who later got their consolation through an Eric Dier own goal.
He may have spent the last few months playing as a No. 10 for United, and if this was Hodgson's way of testing if Rooney has goals left in him still, the response was emphatic.
However, if Hodgson is mulling whether to field Rooney as a centre forward next month, he will face three huge deterrents in the form of Kane, Vardy and Sturridge.
Kane's form speaks for itself.
The 22-year-old Tottenham Hotspur star hit 25 league goals last season to finish as the Premiership's top scorer.
His five goals in 11 international appearances suggest he is ready for a major tournament.
Likewise, Vardy's 24 Premiership goals have earned him a place in Hodgson's plans.
The 29-year-old's hot streak propelled Leicester City to the Premier League title.
Sturridge's 13 strikes in all competitions pale in comparison, but he missed a huge chunk of last season due to injuries and yet ended up as Liverpool's most prolific scorer.
His superb goal in Liverpool's Europa League final defeat by Sevilla reinforced his reputation as a big-game player.
Should the 26-year-old fail to recover in time from the calf injury which forced him to miss the match against Australia, Rashford looks likely to benefit.
Hodgson's about to make a huge decision as England train their sights on their opening match against Russia on June 11.
It's a situation which many rival managers would want to be in.
Chances are, though, Hodgson won't be enjoying this particular problem.
- ENGLAND: Fraser Forster (Tom Heaton 87), Nathaniel Clyne, Chris Smalling (Eric Dier 73), John Stones, Ryan Bertrand, Jordan Henderson, Danny Drinkwater, Jack Wilshere (James Milner 46), Adam Lallana (Wayne Rooney 46), Raheem Sterling (Andros Townsend 76), Marcus Rashford (Ross Barkley 63)
- AUSTRALIA: Mathew Ryan, Joshua Risdon (Milos Degenek 74), Bailey Wright, Mark Milligan, Brad Smith, Aaron Mooy (Craig Goodwin 84), Mile Jedinak, Massimo Luongo (Matt McKay 58), Tom Rogic (Tomi Juric 73), Robbie Kruse, (Jackson Irvine 84), Jamie Maclaren (Christopher Oikonomidis 58)
By the numbers
At the age of 18 years and 209 days, Marcus Rashford is behind only Michael Owen (18 years and 164 days) and Wayne Rooney (17 years 317 days) on the list of youngest scorers for England, but Rashford is the youngest to score on his England debut.
Well done, Rashford, but...
England manager Roy Hodgson was delighted to see striker Marcus Rashford mark his England debut with a goal, but stopped short of rubber-stamping the 18-year-old's place at Euro 2016.
Rashford continued his compelling rise to prominence yesterday morning (Singapore time), volleying home after a neat move involving Raheem Sterling after just 138 seconds into the 2-1 win over Australia at Sunderland's Stadium of Light.
The Manchester United rookie celebrated calmly and seemed less surprised than his teammates that he had just become the youngest England debutant to find the net.
Hodgson, however, offered no promises that the lanky teenager will be on the plane to France.
"What a debut. I'm pleased for him," said Hodgson. "The subject of Marcus Rashford, I guess, will chop a few trees down tomorrow. I thought he did well.
"But I wasn't surprised with the way he played. He was always one of the players who was seriously competing for a place in the 23 and he's done his chances of travelling with us no harm.
"But nothing changes in that respect because we wouldn't have him with us in the 26 if we didn't think he was a serious contender for the 23.
"Let's wait and see... I've got until Tuesday to name my squad but he wouldn't be out of place in anyone's 23."
Hodgson (above) added on BBC Radio Five Live: "I'm delighted for Marcus and delighted that he's received such praise. I'm also delighted that my decision to thrust him into the side was not proved to be ridiculous.
"He's shown that only seconds into the game."
The clamour to take Rashford will surely intensify in the coming days, and that puts Daniel Sturridge under the microscope.
The Liverpool forward was watching the game with English FA staff in the stands, but is expected to train over the weekend.
He is not involved in a straight head-to-head with Rashford, as Hodgson could consider bringing all five strikers.
Assessing Sturridge's status, Hodgson added: "He has a minor injury and we hope it will settle down.
"He'll be throwing his hat into the ring. If it turns out his injury would keep him out of the Euros or he would be unfit when we play Russia (on June 11), that might make a difference."
Hodgson deployed two formations, with Rashford and Sterling atop a diamond in the first half and then operating either side of Wayne Rooney after he came from the bench at half-time.
The England captain scored their second, and his 52nd at this level, with a powerful drive in the 55th minute.
The two-goal cushion was halved 15 minutes from time when Eric Dier, operating in the back four after Chris Smalling suffered cramp, stooped in front of Fraser Forster to nod in an own goal.
Hodgson sees the versatile Tottenham man as cover for his three centre backs and did not appear overly shaken by his error.
"We wanted to give Eric a bit of a go at centre back.
"After his goal tonight, I'm tempted to give him a go at centre forward in the next game," he quipped. - PA Sport.