England progressed to the quarter-finals of the Women’s World Cup with a 3-0 victory over an enraged Cameroon side who protested after two VAR decisions went against them.
Goals from Steph Houghton, Ellen White and Alex Greenwood sent England through to face Norway on Thursday, but the fractious game will be remembered for Cameroon’s extraordinary reactions to White’s goal and a disallowed effort from Ajara Nchout.
The distraught Cameroon players twice appeared unwilling to restart the match, gathering in a huddle after White’s strike was given and remonstrating with the officials further after half-time.
Captain Houghton struck England’s opener after an early backpass gave England an indirect free-kick, before the drama escalated.
Striker White placed in England’s second, which was initially ruled out before the video assistant referee deemed White to have been onside, but Cameroon reacted furiously and gestured to suggest the big screen’s replays had indicated differently.
The African side thought they had pulled a goal back after the break through Nchout, but their despair increased when it was disallowed after a VAR review for an extremely tight offside call.
England left-back Greenwood then swept in the Lionesses’ third to secure a win that saw them reach at least the last eight of the competition for a fifth time, and for the fourth consecutive World Cup.
A fractious evening in Valenciennes
Cameroon, who are 43 places below Phil Neville’s side in the world rankings and playing in only their second Women’s World Cup, began the tie as major underdogs.
They had reached the last 16 thanks to a 95th-minute winner over New Zealand on 20 June, which saw them progress as one of the four best third-placed sides, but Sunday’s drama against England was of a different kind.
There was an edge to the match early on, with Yvonne Leuko booked for an apparent elbow on England winger Nikita Parris, before Augustine Ejangue appeared to spit on Toni Duggan after the backpass that led to the opener.
Cameroon then reacted with despair after White’s goal was given by VAR, temporarily refusing to restart play, and some of their players were reportedly in tears in the tunnel at half-time.
Boos and hissing from the stands then followed the decision to disallow Nchout’s strike, coupled with widespread protestations from their substitutes.
And the first ever competitive meeting between these two sides concluded with a poor challenge by Alexandra Takounda on Houghton, for which the Cameroon player was booked as her team-mates again remonstrated with the referee.
Focused England carry on winning
For England, who reached the semi-finals of their past two major tournaments and are the fourth favourites to lift the title in Lyon on 7 July, the win was another impressive one.
Ejangue’s backpass to the goalkeeper presented Neville’s side with an indirect free-kick, which Duggan touched to Houghton to drill in to the corner from close range, finding a way past all 11 Cameroon players on the line.
That opener gave England some control of the game and they added to it with White and Greenwood’s efforts, while keeping a third consecutive clean sheet.
However, there were sloppy moments at the back that will cause Neville concern, especially in the early part of the second half.
Karen Bardsley’s misplaced clearance and some subsequent slack marking allowed Nchout to find the net, before her effort was ruled out.
Alexandra Engolo then twice went close after more poor England defending, but the majority of their performance over the 90 minutes was strong.
Taylor scuffed wide late on as they pushed for a fourth goal, as the Lionesses won a fifth straight World Cup game – stretching back to 2015’s third-place play-off – for the first time.
Player of the match – Jill Scott (England)
‘It didn’t feel like football’ – what they said
England boss Phil Neville: “It didn’t feel like football. I know we get these these briefs about coming on TV and saying it was good game, but that wasn’t a last-16 tie in terms of behaviour from footballers.
“This is going out worldwide. I didn’t enjoy it, the players didn’t enjoy it. My players kept their concentration, but those images are going out worldwide and young girls are seeing that behaviour and it’s not right.
“There has to be a standard of behaviour that you have to do, and my players did that.”
Scott surpasses Shilton – the stats
- 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 (winning the other).
- 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.
- Lionesses 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 (Kelly Smith scored four in 2007).
- White has scored in all three of her appearances at the 2019 Women’s World Cup (four goals in total), becoming the first England player to score in three consecutive games in the competition.
- Jill Scott made her 18th World Cup appearance. She has overtaken Peter Shilton (17) as the player with the most World Cup appearances for England.
England will face Norway for a place in the semi-finals in Le Havre on Thursday (20:00 BST).