The referee of England’s last-16 victory twice overruled VAR late on to prevent Cameroon players from abandoning the match, The Telegraph can reveal.
Qin Liang was concerned Cameroon would walk off the pitch when she rejected advice on a Fran Kirby penalty claim and refused to dismiss Alexandra Takounda for a scraped challenge on Steph Houghton.
It is understood that Fifa has backed Liang's decisions, too, given the ugly incidents that preceded the two decisions in a match that threatened to spiral out of control.
Augustine Ejangue had spat on Toni Duggan and the whole Cameroon team twice seemingly threatened to leave the field when two earlier VAR calls went against them.
Football's governing body is conducting a priority investigation into the unsavoury scenes during England's 3-0 win on Sunday, compiling reports from match officials and the match commissioner, Alexandro Benado of Chile. It is hoped the inquiry will be concluded on Tuesday.
Fifa has studied Liang’s performance - officially ruled as “good” in the report to Fifa - finding “every decision and the use of VAR correct, using the protocols” and that she tried to get the Cameroon players to restart the game promptly following each flashpoint.
Isha Johansen, chair of the women’s football committee for the African Football Confederation (CAF), had earlier vowed her body would open an inquiry but it is thought CAF is unable to take action because the World Cup is a Fifa event.
Johansen, who is also president of the Sierra Leone FA, earlier said in a statement: “Whilst remaining proud of our African teams that participated in the World Cup, the match between England and Cameroon reflected badly, not only on African women’s football but African football on the whole. It is an issue which will be addressed and dealt with at the appropriate levels of governance."
Generally, Fifa cannot take retrospective disciplinary action unless it is recommended in either the referee’s or commissioner’s report, with the referee’s in-game disciplinary decisions usually considered final.
However, the organisation’s disciplinary committee is able to sanction “serious infringements which have escaped the match officials’ attention”, “rectify obvious errors in the referee’s disciplinary decisions” and “extend the duration of a match suspension incurred automatically by an expulsion [... or] pronounce additional sanctions, such as a fine.”
It could, then, ban or fine Takounda for her foul on Houghton.
The England head coach Phil Neville condemned the “shameful” behaviour of Cameroon’s players, saying that their actions were “so bad for the image of the game that I’ve fallen in love with in the past 18 months”.
“I sat through 90 minutes of football and felt ashamed,” he said. “Proud of my own players’ performances, proud of my own players’ behaviour under circumstances that I’ve never seen on a football field before, and completely and utterly ashamed of the behaviour of the opposition. It takes you back to the times when you were a kid and you lost and you went home crying with your ball.”
The first delay followed England's opening goal, with Cameroon enraged by the image on the big screen inside the stadium.
It showed Nikita Parris in an offside position but not interfering with play. Ellen White was onside and the goal correctly stood but it is understood Cameroon falsely claimed the flag was raised before White shot. Video evidence proved otherwise.
Cameroon then thought they had pulled a goal back until VAR showed Gabrielle Aboudi Onguene had come back from an offside position before crossing for Ajara Nchout’s finish, sparking tears, more delays and further protests.
A peak UK television audience of 6.9 million with a 40.5 per cent audience share watched England set up a quarter-final against Norway, making it the UK’s most-watched women’s football game of all time - beating England's 2-1 win over Scotland in the opening group game of this tournament.