Distraught Cameroon players staged a series of extraordinary on-field protests over VAR decisions as England earned a quarterfinal clash with Norway at the Women’s World Cup with a 3-0 win in Valenciennes Sunday.
The protests took the gloss off the England win, its second biggest at the finals stage, with angry manager Phil Neville claiming they had damaged the image of women’s football in front of a big global audience.
‘That was not football,” he said.
Host France joined them in the last eight later Sunday with a 2-1 extra time win over Brazil in Le Havre.
England’s winning advantage may have been comfortable enough, but the match in the Stade du Hainaut exploded in controversy just before halftime as Ellen White slotted home England’s second goal and her fourth of the tournament.
A flag was up for offside but after consulting VAR, which showed White was onside, referee Qin Liang awarded the goal.
It enraged Cameroon’s players, who clustered around her and refused to restart the match for several minutes, persuaded to carry on by coach Alain Djeumfa, himself openly unhappy with the decision.
Cameroon players confront referee Qin Liang following England’s second goal for Ellen White which is allowed after a VAR decision.
The protests continued in the tunnel at halftime, with the Cameroon team emerging on to the pitch early for the restart, forming an intense huddle in the middle of the pitch.
Their anger only increased soon after the break when Ajara Nchout took advantage of slack England defending to pull one back with a smart finish from a left-wing cross, only to see it ruled out by VAR for a marginal offside decision.
Goalscorer Nchout was left in floods of tears, comforted by Djeumfa and teammates, with another long delay before the match was restarted.
Clearly unsettled, England had another let-off shortly after as a poor back pass from Alex Greenwood allowed in substitute Alexandra Takounda Engolo, but goalkeeper Karen Bardsley saved her effort.
However, the Lionesses regained composure and from a well-worked corner Toni Duggan picked out Greenwood who fired home on 58 minutes.
England had an unassailable lead with the third but might have added to its tally, the referee opting not to award a penalty after coming to review a possible foul on Fran Kirby in the box by Ysis Sonkeng, thereby avoiding the further wrath of the Cameroon players
There was still time for one more unsavoury incident as England captain Steph Houghton was fouled by Alexandra Takounda Engolo, the hefty challenge earning a yellow card, which might have been red, after further consultation with VAR.
Houghton had put England ahead in the 14th minute after Cameroon was punished for a backpass, after Augustine Ejangue intercepted White’s cross and goalkeeper Annette Ngo Ndom picked the ball up.
That award set the scene for the further protests, with Cameroon players clearly unhappy, particularly after Duggan rolled it back to Houghton to finish smartly.