A furious Phil Neville admitted England’s 3-0 win over Cameroon ‘didn’t feel like football’ after chaotic scenes marred Sunday’s Women’s World Cup tie in Valenciennes.
Cameroon’s players reacted angrily to the outcome of two VAR reviews, one awarding England’s second goal and another ruling out Ajara Nchout’s strike early in the second half.
After the first review, which occurred in the final minute of added time at the end of the first half, Cameroon’s players initially appeared to refuse to restart the game.
The match briefly descended into farce when Nchout’s goal was chalked off, with the player herself in tears while her team-mates and coaching staff protested to officials on and off the pitch.
“It didn’t feel like football, I’ve got to be honest,” Neville told the BBC after England advanced to a quarter-final against Norway.
“I know we get these briefs about coming on TV and just saying it was a good win. It was a good win.
“We played OK, we passed the ball well, we were ruthless in attack, we’re ready to play in a quarter-final. But I’ve got to say that wasn’t football for me.
“That wasn’t a World Cup last 16 (match) in terms of the behaviour that I want to see from footballers. This is going out worldwide. And I can’t stand here and say that I particularly enjoyed it, my players didn’t enjoy it.”
Neville was disappointed with conduct of Cameroon’s players after officials spoke to captain Gabrielle Onguene and coach Alain Djeumfa in an attempt to restore order.
“At half-time, they were confused about the actions, about what they should do,” Neville said of his players. “They kept their concentration fantastic, they did their job.
“But that image is going out worldwide, about how to act. There are young girls playing all over the world that are seeing that behaviour. For me it’s not right. And I can’t stand here and say it’s fantastic, it’s brilliant, there’s a bigger picture here.
“There’s a certain standard of behaviour you’ve got to do. My players did that and I’m proud.”
And despite a comprehensive defeat, the situation could have been worse for Cameroon. Yvonne Leuko was only booked for an early elbow on Nikita Parris, while Neville thought England should have been awarded a penalty for a second-half challenge on Fran Kirby.
A shocking tackle by Alexandra Takounda Engolo on England captain Steph Houghton in the final minute of the match should have resulted in a red card. After yet another VAR review, however, it was punished with a yellow.
And Neville believes the officials were going easy on Cameroon by the end.
When asked how much sympathy he had for Cameroon, Neville replied: “None. None.
“The rules are the rules. Ellen White was onside (for the second goal). Deal with it. We know the rules. We’ve been spoken to 350,000 times by referees in the last three weeks. We know the rules. The referee got every one right.
“In fact at the end I think she took pity on them, because I think we should’ve had a penalty and a sending off.
“So in the end they can count their lucky stars that it wasn’t five and six. The behaviour was wrong.
“The behaviour was wrong because it’s the image of women’s football that’s going out worldwide, about a team that comes to decide that they’re refusing to play. And I’m proud of my players.”