Women’s World Cup: England boss Phil Neville ‘ashamed’ by Cameroon behaviour

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England boss Phil Neville said he was “ashamed” by Cameroon’s behaviour after a World Cup last-16 victory he said “didn’t feel like football”.

The Lionesses booked a quarter-final spot against Norway after a 3-0 win.

But the game was marred by Cameroon’s extraordinary reaction to two video assistant referee decisions and several poor challenges on England’s players.

“I am completely and utterly ashamed of the opposition,” Neville said.

“When I started in management, I think it was Arsene Wenger that told me: The team mirror the manager.

“If that was my team – and it will never be any of my players – they would never play for England again, with that kind of behaviour.

“At times, we probably didn’t know whether the game would continue.

“It didn’t feel like football. It was a good win but that wasn’t a World Cup last-16 tie in terms of behaviour that I want to see from footballers.

“This is going out worldwide. I didn’t enjoy it, the players didn’t enjoy it. My players kept their concentration fantastically, but those images are going out worldwide about how to act, the young girls playing all over the world that are seeing that behaviour. For me, it’s not right.

“My daughter wants to be a footballer and if she watches that she will think: ‘No, I want to play netball.'”

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Neville has ‘no sympathy’ for Cameroon

The game witnessed two moments of controversy early on when Yvonne Leuko was booked for an apparent elbow on England winger Nikita Parris, before Augustine Ejangue appeared to spit on Toni Duggan after the free-kick that led to Steph Houghton’s opener.

Both England players said they didn’t think there was any malice or intention behind those incidents.

And they were overshadowed just before half-time when the Cameroon players refused to re-start the game after Ellen White’s VAR-awarded second goal.

White’s goal was initially ruled out for offside, but that decision was changed, leading to the Cameroon side’s protests and a delay of several minutes.

The African side were further frustrated when Ajara Nchout’s goal – which would have made it 2-1 – was disallowed for offside thanks to VAR, with the striker in tears after the decision was overturned.

Asked if he had any sympathy for Cameroon, Neville said: “None. The rules are rules. For the second goal, Ellen White was onside, deal with it.

“We have been spoken to about 350,000 times by referees for the last three weeks. We know the rules and the referee got every one right and in the end, the referee took pity on them.

“They should count their lucky stars that it wasn’t five or six. The behaviour was wrong, because it’s an image of women’s football that is going worldwide about a team that are refusing to play.

“I’m proud of my players for their discipline and the belief they had and going out there and playing a game of football.”

Cameroon captain Gabrielle Onguene (third left) was angry after Steph Houghton was injured by Alexandra Takounda Engolo's late challenge in injury time

Houghton injury a ‘concern’

In addition to the elbow on Parris, which was not reviewed by VAR, Houghton was caught by a late challenge by Alexandra Takounda in stoppage time.

It led to more dramatic scenes as Cameroon captain Gabrielle Onguene started to berate the England captain as she lay on the floor.

Takounda was only booked for the challenge, which was reviewed by VAR, but Neville said Houghton’s injury was a “concern”.

“Steph Houghton was player of the match and can’t be [at the press conference] as she’s on the treatment table, from the tackle that everyone saw,” Neville said.

“She needs to recover, she’s in a lot of pain. It’s not Fifa’s fault, this time.

“We’re concerned about her. She’s not someone that stays down. It was a late tackle and we will have to do everything possible to get her fit for the quarter-finals.”

On the elbow incident, Parris told the BBC: “I don’t think it was malicious. I just felt it was an action of her running technique but it hit me in the jaw, clean and square.

“They were really physical, but you expect that. You can’t come into a round-of-16 knockout stage and not expect a team to come out fighting. That’s what they did; they do it in a different way to us.”

BBC Sport has launched #ChangeTheGame this summer to showcase female athletes in a way they never have been before. Through more live women’s sport available to watch across the BBC this summer, complemented by our journalism, we are aiming to turn up the volume on women’s sport and alter perceptions. Find out more here.

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