Woeful England scrape draw

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There is no use wrapping it up. England’s 2-2 European Championship qualifying draw against Switzerland at Wembley was a shocker.

Goalkeeper Joe Hart had a stinker. Darren Bent missed a sitter which the ‘missus’, as Harry Redknapp might have said, could well have converted.

The midfield axis of Jack Wilshere, Scott Parker and Frank Lampard failed miserbaly to deliver cohesion.

And there was a lack of solidity and an absence of guile which was truly worrying. Throw in that old England habit of giving away the ball cheaply and England manager Fabio Capello has much work to do if he is to adorn his England reign with a creditable performance at Euro 2012.

Oh how England missed the poise and vision of the suspended Wayne Rooney. Oh how they could have done with the drive of the injured Steven Gerrard.

Instead they stumbled their way through one sticky moment to the next in an encounter which had the family-oriented Wembley crowd on the edge of their seats with apprehension more than excitement.

The sticky moments in England’s defence in the first half, in particular, were truly desperate.

With Rio Ferdinand back in harness with John Terry, central defence should have been one of England’s strengths. Yet it did not look that way as the Swiss, deft and technically comfortable on the ball, created space and chances too. Almost at will.

Gokhan Inler might have put Switzerland ahead. So might Valon Behrami if his touch had been better, while Hart was forced to make a flying save to tip away a Xherdan Shaqiri curler.

The point was that, even before the goals came, England were being seriously tested by a Switzerland side which contained a pleasing injection of youth since it was beaten 3-1 in Basle by Capello’s team last year.

The Swiss goals, however, served to show up the fragility of a Capello team who had looked so bright in victory against Wales last time out.

The first one, a 30-yard swinging free-kick from Tranquillo Barnetta from an oblique angle, went straight in, eluding Ferdinand’s attempted header on the way.

Hart will plead confusion in front of him as a mitigating factor and there is no doubt he was compromised by Ferdinand’s position but the truth is an international goalkeeper should not concede such a goal.

Three minutes later Hart demonstrated why the goalkeeping position remains such a torment for Capello.

Robert Green’s confidence is still shattered after his World Cup howler against the United States. Ben Foster has taken a self-imposed break from the international scene.

And Switzerland’s second goal only proved how much Hart still has to learn at the highest level.

True, he was not helped when Theo Walcott and James Milner’s two-man wall parted to allow another Barnetta free-kick, from an even more oblique angle, to pass. But when the ball found its way into the net Hart was culpable on two counts.

First, for not ensuring there was a defender on the near post. Second, for flailing at the ball with his right foot, only to help it into the net.

That was the worst of England. The best came in their response. You cannot knock that. When England are stung invariably they react with red-blooded passion and they swept forward, only for Wilshere to be brought down by the hapless Johan Djourou and Lampard slotted home the penalty kick.

Still, half-time was crucial and when Ashley Young came out for Lampard after the interval at least it was a positive move. Pace and vitality against the somewhat laborious first half work of Lampard.

It worked, Young smashing home a right-footer after a delightful chest-down by Leighton Baines.

Yes, England could have gone on to win. Bent was clean through when his shot was smothered by Swiss goalkeeper Diego Benaglio. And the Aston Villa striker looked certain to score when the goal gaped, only to shoot wildly over the crossbar.

Yet an England win would have been an injustice. They might still qualify comfortably in Group G, although at the end Capello wore the air of a worried man.

He had every right to do so.