Women’s World Cup: VAR at the centre of chaos again as England beat Cameroon 3-0


Winning all three matches of their group stage matches at a World Cup, an unprecedented record, England faced Cameroon hoping to seal their passage into the final-eight. 

With momentum and confidence ever-growing in the Lionesses, Phil Neville and his women were looking to avoid a potential banana skin against Cameroon in the first knockout stage.

Cameroon, who finished as one of the best third placed teams in the tournament, were preparing to meet England for the first time in a competitive match. England’s only run-in with African opposition was against Nigeria, way back in 1995.

Despite being the lowest ranked side left in the World Cup, Cameroon and their coach Alain Djeumfa were relishing the underdog status:

“Everything is in place for us to showcase our talents. I know these players inside out. They have been made for this and have a winning spirit, a fighting spirit. That is our strength and I can assure you that you will see this on the pitch.

Cameroon is gaining in strength. We are taking baby steps at the moment. We will be the underdog. But we have something up our sleeves.”

England made three changes from the team that faced 2011 winner Japan as Alex Greenwood, Fran Kirby and Nikita Parris all came in to the England side. Cameroon were unchanged from the side that dramatically beat New Zealand 2-1 in their final group game.

England, in all white, kicked off the game in Valenciennes putting Cameroon on the back-foot straight away despite the African outfit attempting to assert their physicality with some hard tackles. In the third minute, Nikita Parris was brought down by Yvonne Leuko, who was fortunate to only receive a yellow card after a trailing arm hit Parris in the face.

England opened the scoring in the 11th minute when Ellen White raced to the by-line before attempting to play a cut-back cross to the onrushing Toni Duggan. The Cameroonian defender Augustine Ejangue instinctively passed the ball back to her goalkeeper who picked the ball up. The referee was given no choice but to award England an in-direct shot from just seven yards out.

With all eleven Cameroon players on the goal-line, Toni Duggan laid the ball off to captain Steph Houghton who curled the ball into back of the net in seemingly the only place that wasn’t covered.

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Houghton curls a precise ball past the Cameroon wall to open the scoring – Image: GettyImages

.Although Cameroon were hoping to fluster the Lionesses with their physical presence, they were not handling the physicality of Jill Scott very well.  Scott, whose appearance ensures she is the country’s most-capped World Cup player, surpassing Peter Shilton’s record of 18, was pulling the strings in midfield with her rangy running and passing range.

After bright starts in each of their matches in the tournament, it was a regular feature for the Lionesses to take their foot of the gas and complacency to creep in. As the first half wore on, there were signs that England were once again showing their fragility as defensive mix-ups and increased Cameroon pressure started to tell.

The indomitable Lions started to hunt the England defence down, pressuring and forcing them into mistakes. With pace and power in abundance, Cameroon were becoming a genuine threat on the counter-attack and in transitions but lacked end product to make England pay.

Just on the stroke of half time England made it 2-0 when Lucy Bronze played a defence-splitting pass and found Ellen White who coolly finished it into the back of the net. Initially the goal was given offside but with the help of VAR, Ellen White bagged her fourth of the competition and became the joint-highest scorer for the Lionesses in World Cup football with five goals.

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Cameroon refused to take kick-off following Ellen White’s goal – Image: HILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images.

In a quite bizarre turn of events, the Cameroon players gathered in a circle, refusing to take the restart immediately. They felt VAR gave the wrong decision despite Ellen White clearly shown to be onside. The whole fiasco took over four minutes to be resolved. Cameroon Women's team

In a peculiar first half, England went off with a two goal lead and their opposition for whatever reason, furious. The message from Phil Neville at the interval was clear; keep your heads and you will win this game.

Two minutes into the second half, VAR was the forefront of controversy again; Cameroon scored but was disallowed for a narrow offside in the build-up. In some unsavoury scenes, the Cameroonians were fuming at the officials as once again, they didn’t agree with the decision. Taking another five minutes to restart play, the match was in danger of getting out of control, as if it wasn’t chaotic already.

Seconds after, a poor pass from Alex Greenwood led to a one against one where keeper Karen Bardsley stood strong and kept out the shot. England needed to stay calm but were looking panicked and nervy with the tension growing every minute.

In the 57th minute England put all lingering nerves to bed when Alex Greenwood atoned for her error. A clever corner routine found the full-back and she struck a left-footed shot into the far right corner to make it 3-0.

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Image: Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

Ellen White and Fran Kirby had half chances but could not release a clean strike after being put under severe pressure by the Cameroon defence.

Unbelievably, VAR was at the centre of another contentious incident when Fran Kirby was obviously clipped by a trailing leg in the penalty area. After going over to the screen and taking an age to make a decision, the referee gave no penalty.

In added time, a horrendous challenge on Steph Houghton saw Takounda given just a yellow despite scrapping her studs down the England captain’s leg.

After seven minutes of stoppage time, VAR accountable, England saw out the chaotic last-16 tie and sealed their place in the quarter finals.

Showing glimpses of great play between periods of looking average, England will be hoping to step up their game when they face Norway in the quarter finals. Despite England going through comfortably, this game will always be marred by the blurred guidelines of VAR and the appalling behaviour of Cameroon. As Phil Neville perfectly summed up afterwards, “this wasn’t a game of football.”

Team Line-ups:

England (4-3-3): Karen Bardsley; Lucy Bronze, Alex Greenwood, Steph Houghton (c), Millie Bright; Nikita Parris (Lucy Staniforth 85′), Jill Scott (Leah Williamson 85′), Kiera Walsh, Fran Kirby, Toni Duggan; Ellen White (Jodie Taylor 63′).

Cameroon (4-5-1): Annette Ngo Ndom; Ajara Nchout,  Yvonne Leuko, Augustine Ejangue (Ysis Sonkeng 63′) Estelle Johnson; Gabrielle Onguene (c), Raissa Feudijo, Jeanette Yango, Aurelle Awona; Gaelle Enganamouit (Alexandra Engolo 51′) Michaela Abam.


About Author

Football, Boxing and Cricket correspondent from Hampshire, covering southern sport. Editor and Head of Boxing at Prost International. Accreditated EFL & EPL journalist.

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