New look England defence struggles against Switzerland with Guehi, Coady, White and Walker-Peters failing to take chance

YOU know you’re in trouble when Jordan Pickford is telling you to calm down.

Because the excitable England keeper is not someone who should dish out lectures on tranquillity.

England star Jordan Pickford had to tell his defenders to calm downCredit: Getty

England's new-look defence failed to make a claim for the 2022 World Cup

England’s new-look defence failed to make a claim for the 2022 World CupCredit: Reuters

But four minutes of Wembley madness from Gareth Southgate’s rookie defence were too much for even Pickford to bear.

So it is a good job there is a fair chance that none of this struggling back-five in front of the Everton stopper will be kicking off the World Cup in Qatar.

For the debutants Marc Guehi, 21, and Kyle Walker-Peters, 24, this was an eye-opening baptism of fire.

Southgate had said before the game: “There’s got to be a realistic expectation of what they might provide in the immediate term and I don’t want to put too much pressure on them in their first game.”

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And the two new guys must have been wondering if it is always this chaotic playing for England.

They were hardly helped when John Stones suffered an injury in the pre-match warm-up and had to be replaced by Ben White.

That meant the starting back-five had a grand total of 29 senior caps between them . . . and 19 of them were owned by Luke Shaw.

Guehi knew he was in for a busy afternoon when he was forced into a last-ditch clearance after Pickford had saved from Xherdan Shaqiri.

England did not learn their lesson  and a minute later were trailing when Breel Embolo forced his way between White and Walker-Peters.

Another Shaqiri effort flicked off Guehi and deflected wide before Pickford was forced to palm Fabian Frei’s drive against his bar.

It was hard to believe this was the same England team that had managed 15 clean sheets in 20 games.

But then again, it was not the same team. It was a mix-and-match side cobbled together as a result of a series of high-profile withdrawals.

England manager Gareth Southgate saw his young defence struggle against Switzerland

England manager Gareth Southgate saw his young defence struggle against SwitzerlandCredit: Rex

And all being well for the matches that matter, Reece James, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Kyle Walker, Harry Maguire, Stones and Ben Chilwell will all return to give Pickford the protection he craves.

Of the five starters, only Shaw has a reasonable expectation of playing at the World Cup.

The Manchester United left-back has not exactly been setting the world alight this season but he put all his weight behind England’s equaliser.

And credit to Walker-Peters, who did well to intercept Frei’s attempted clearance to set up the chance for his fellow wing-back.

For Guehi, it was his header which drew the handball from Steve Zuber for Harry Kane’s penalty.

Like Guehi, Walker-Peters knows exactly what it feels like to win a World Cup with England.

England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford had his hands full against Switzerland

England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford had his hands full against SwitzerlandCredit: Getty

The Crystal Palace centre-half lifted the Under-17 World Cup in 2017, while Walker-Peters was in that year’s triumphant Under-20 side.

It would  be wrong to judge their credentials on the basis of one game.

Yet Southgate also knows that his defence will need to be a lot tighter than this if they are going to achieve all their ambitions in Qatar.

Guehi, Walker-Peters and Tyrick Mitchell will all get another chance to show what they are made of against Ivory Coast on Tuesday.

But time is running out for them to stake a World Cup claim and they need to pull something pretty special out of the bag to force Southgate to change his plans.


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