England Players React to Cameroon Controversy

Defender Lucy Bronze during the 2018 SheBelieves Cup. (Monica Simoes)
Monica Simoes / OGM

England’s Lucy Bronze says referee Liang Qin got the “decisions right” after the fallout from England’s win against Cameroon on Sunday continues to rumble on.

The Cameroon team and manager Alain Djeumfa appeared upset at a number of decisions they deemed to go against their side, despite it appearing both Qin and the VAR had come to the correct conclusions when awarding England’s second goal to Ellen White and disallowing Ajara Nchout’s strike early in the second half.

Djeumfa said it was “injustice” in his post-match conference while midfielder Raissa Feudjio said she and her teammates “continued playing for our country despite the referee doing her dirty work.”

Lionesses head coach Phil Neville criticized his opposite number and the Cameroon team for the attitude, stating he didn’t “enjoy” the game and stood firm when he said if his players acted in a similar fashion they’d never play for England again.

To their credit, England’s players remained calm throughout the somewhat farcical scenes either side of the break, but their heads did appear to wobble slightly during a 10-minute period after the game got fully back underway, gifting several chances to their opposition.

A comfortable 3–0 result in the end was enough to seal progression and a quarterfinal slot against Norway in Le Havre on Thursday night.

Speaking after the match, vice-captain Bronze said, “When I watched the videos back on the screen, I thought the referee was right for the goals and for us and that’s the most important thing.

“We kept our heads in a game which got a bit frantic with decisions and stuff but the fact we managed to keep our heads and stay in the game, we did really well.”

In typical Bronze fashion, she shrugged off any suggestions England may have been thrown by Cameroon’s players taking so long to restart, simply stating it allowed her and her teammates to “get another drink.”

Bronze also gave short shrift to the early elbow on Nikita Parris and the spitting incident which involved Toni Duggan. On the latter incident, Bronze said, “She said it was a complete accident. It’s very dry out there, it was completely not meant for Toni at all. There’s nothing against the Cameroonian players, I think their frustrations were with the referee more than us.”

Jill Scott, who was making her 18th World Cup appearance, moving her ahead of now former record holder Peter Shilton, said she doesn’t “think I’ll ever be in another game like that” after several stoppages threatened to curtail the game early, but in the end, the game fizzled out through seven minutes of stoppage time and another rough challenge that left captain Steph Houghton the floor.

“It kind of had everything to be honest,” said Scott. “I think one thing I’m proud of is how logical this team stayed, we just focused on the next moment we could control.

“We’d spoken about it [Cameroon’s physicality] in the buildup to the game. I think sometimes if we’re talking about things directly before the game it probably means you’re not properly prepared. We knew it was going to be physical and we knew if you took three or four touches on the ball you would probably get it taken off you because that’s what they wanted.”

Center back Millie Bright said it wasn’t hard for England to keep their heads during the stop-start periods of the match, saying they got into their “bubble” but admitted it was a strange game to be a part of.

“We always knew they were going to be physical,” said the Chelsea defender. “It’s the first time in my career I’ve experienced anything like it [a team threatening to walk off the pitch]. I was thinking, ‘Get on with it,’ but I was also trying to remain focused on the game and we kept all the focus on ourselves. We will do that against any opponent.”

Bright, though, wouldn’t be overly drawn on whether it was, as her manager said, a bad image for the women’s game.

“It’s a hard one to answer. You can’t really answer that unless you are in their situation, unless you’re the team that wants to do that.”

Bronze echoed Bright’s sentiments in only focusing on England, rather than their opponents.

“From any England point of view, we can only say that we reflected the women’s game well,” she said. “We got on with it. The referee gave decisions and we got on with it. We waited, we didn’t try to surround the referee, we played our game, so from our point of view as an England team we are playing the way we should.”

Another player to have her say post-match was Toni Duggan, the FC Barcelona forward making her second consecutive start after returning from injury in the final group game against Japan.

Duggan wasn’t asked about the spitting issue which coincided with England’s first goal, but said it was “important” that Cameroon didn’t walk off the pitch but was critical of the time VAR is taking to make decisions.

“I think that’s what VAR is causing,” she said. “There’s a big delay, teams are confused, they’ve got replays on the big screen which the players are watching. They carried on the game so great credit to them.

“Maybe they did threaten to but they didn’t. They respected their opponent and although they may have had their frustrations, they still got on with it. I still kind of have that respect for them that they did get on with it.”