England 3-0 Cameroon: England Women into World Cup quarters after ill-tempered win dominated by VAR
Cameroon players twice appeared unwilling to accept VAR decisions in controversial England win as Phil Neville says: "That didn't feel like football"
Last Updated: 26/06/19 10:36am
England Women made it through to the World Cup quarter-finals after beating Cameroon 3-0 on Sunday in a match littered with VAR controversy.
England took an early lead through Steph Houghton after she was teed up by Toni Duggan from an indirect free-kick inside the box following a Cameroon backpass (14), before Ellen White slotted home her fourth of the tournament after a VAR review (45+3).
The review, nonetheless, bizarrely left Cameroon's players furious having seen Nikita Parris in an offside position on the stadium screen, despite not interfering with play.
There was more VAR controversy after the break when Ajara Nchout looked to have halved the deficit (48), but it was disallowed for a marginal offside, which caused more anger among the Cameroon players and reduced Nchout to tears.
Alex Greenwood then made it 3-0 with a neat finish from a clever Duggan corner (58), and there was time for even more late controversy as Alexandra Takounda Engolo escaped with just a yellow card, despite an on-pitch VAR review, for a wretched late challenge on Houghton in stoppage time.
The win means England set up a quarter-final clash with Norway on Thursday at 8pm in Le Havre.
How England battled through controversy to win
Cameroon could have been down to 10 players in just the fourth minute after Yvonne Leuko's elbow on Parris, but she was only shown a yellow card, with no VAR utilised.
England dominated the early stages and took the lead in unusual fashion as Cameroon were punished for a backpass by Augustine Ejangue; Duggan then rolled the ball back for Houghton, who found the bottom right corner through the crowd of Cameroon players on the line.
Television replays also showed Ejangue seemingly spit on Duggan's arm as she appealed for the backpass, though it is unclear whether this was a deliberate act by the Cameroon defender and no action was taken.
England made it 2-0 as Lucy Bronze's through ball to White was tucked home into the bottom left corner, and though the flag initially went up, a VAR review showed White clearly onside. Cameroon players initially accepted the decision, but upon seeing the incident on the stadium screen, protested for nearly three minutes to Chinese referee Qin Liang that Parris was in an offside position, though she was not interfering with play.
It looked at one point like Cameroon would refuse to continue - their players had to be spoken to by a FIFA official at half-time - and their mood worsened after the break as Nchout's first-time finish from Gabrielle Onguene's cross was disallowed by VAR for an offside against Onguene. The players once again appeared unwilling to accept the decision, prompting tears from Nchout and more anger from coach Alain Djeumfa.
Phil Neville made three changes - the fewest he's made at this World Cup - bringing in Parris, Kirby and Greenwood, and replacing Daly, Stanway and Stokes.
England added salt to the wound with a third as Greenwood tucked home from 10 yards after a well-worked low corner by Duggan, but the controversy didn't end as a horrible late challenge by Takounda on Houghton's ankle went to VAR.
Despite it looking a clear red card offence, referee Liang showed a yellow, seemingly to pacify the Cameroon players, who were already enraged at Houghton's reaction and Liang's officiating.
VAR: What happened
Six separate incidents caused controversy in Valenciennes, and the decisions taken created confusion among both teams.
1) Leuko's unpunished elbow on Parris, which seemingly did not go to VAR, started things off
2) Ejangue's apparent spit on Duggan was picked up by TV cameras but not reviewed by VAR. Neville said after the game that the spit seemed 'clear', and branded it "unacceptable" and the "worst thing you can do on a football pitch" while praising Duggan for not reacting.
3) and 4) The VAR decisions regarding White's goal and Cameroon's disallowed goal were technically correct, though referee Qin Liang could have held a tighter grip on the incident as Cameroon players were allowed to spend time discussing the decision in a team huddle on the pitch.
The controversy prompted jeers from the crowd, particularly for the time taken to come to each decision, with a total of 15 minutes added on in the first and second half.
5) England had a strong appeal for a penalty turned down by VAR at 3-0 after Leuko caught Kirby's toe - which could have gone either way
6) But the late yellow card for a clear red-card offence by Takounda in stoppage time rightly left England aggrieved
Though VAR will be criticised, it was the behaviour it prompted in the Cameroon players and head coach which was most startling, as well as referee Liang's lack of control. Phil Neville said he had "no sympathy" for the Cameroon players, adding "the rules are the rules".
Phil Neville did not hold back after the game in his criticism of Cameroon's players...
In his post-match press conference, Neville said: "I came to this World Cup to be successful but also to play a part in making women's football globally more visible, globally better, to put on a show that the rest of the world can see, that women's football is improving.
"I sat through 90 minutes of football there and felt ashamed. Proud of my own players' performances and behaviour, under circumstances I've never seen on a football field before.
"I'm completely and utterly ashamed of the behaviour of the opposition. I didn't enjoy the game for that reason, my players didn't, and all those young girls watching back in England, and the young boys watching, with that kind of behaviour, I think it's pretty sad. It takes you back to the times where you were a kid and you lost and went home crying with your ball."
He also told BBC Sport: "It didn't feel like football, to be honest with you. We get briefings about coming on TV and saying it was a good win, and it was a good win, we played ok and we were ruthless in attack - but that wasn't football.
Cameroon head coach Alain Djeumfa labelled Ellen White's goal, which was given after a VAR review, a "miscarriage of justice" but after suggesting the match officials had been biased against his side, dodged questions asking him to elaborate on the reasons behind his claim.
"I just said it was a miscarriage of justice but I won't go further than that. Why should I talk about anything else, this is football; it's a game, a sport. Occasionally the referee makes mistakes, and the referee made a lot of mistakes tonight."
- England have qualified for the quarter-finals of the Women's World Cup in each of their five tournament appearances (1995, 2007, 2011, 2015 and 2019).
- Cameroon have been eliminated in the Last 16 in both of their Women's World Cup appearances (previously in 2015), while they exit the 2019 tournament having lost three of their four games (W1).
- England's 3-0 win over Cameroon was their second-biggest margin of victory in a Women's World Cup game, only behind their 6-1 win over Argentina in the 2007 group stage.
- England have won five consecutive games for the first time ever at the Women's World Cup.
- England striker Ellen White has scored four goals at the 2019 Women's World Cup; the joint-most by an England player in a single tournament in the competition (also Kelly Smith with four in 2007).
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