Cameroon had the opportunity to become the first African side to advance in the Women’s World Cup knockout stages, but were pegged back by VAR decisions on numerous occasions and fell to England 3-0. The Cameroon players were emotionally effected by the multiple VAR decisions, and it spilled out onto the field on a number of occasions.
Cameroon got away with one just four minutes in as Yvonne Leuko landed a brutal elbow to the face of Nikita Parris down the right flank but the referee showed Leuko just a yellow card for the incident which absolutely could have deserved more, but VAR did not intervene. It was a harbinger of what would come for the African nation as they looked bright at times on the ball but also proved childish when faced with adversity.
England bagged its early opener on a controversial decision as Cameroon defender Augustine Ejangue intercepted an England cross and goalkeeper Annette Ngo Ndom collected. That caused the referee to award an indirect free-kick for an intentional back-pass about five yards from goal, and while there was no question Ejangue intentionally played the ball, there was uncertainty whether her touch was intended as a pass to the goalkeeper.
Much of the focus of this game concerned the reaction of the Cameroon players to their on-field adversity. During the immediate aftermath as Cameroon protested the decision, replay showed Ejangue spitting on the forearm of England attacker Toni Duggan, and Duggan efforted to make the referee aware of the situation, to no avail. It was unclear whether the spit was intentional as Ejangue was not looking at Duggan but at very close range, and VAR yet again did not play a part.
Eventually, England stepped up for the attempt and Cameroon put every player on the goal line, but that would not stop captain Steph Houghton from blasting the indirect attempt inside the far post for the game’s first goal just 14 minutes in.
After the goal, England remained dominant in possession but Cameroon proved dangerous in spurts on the counter. England was the team in charge, however, and they would double the lead through Ellen White deep in first half stoppage time as she took a feed from Lucy Bronze through the back line and rifled a blistering finish into the top corner for a 2-0 lead. The goal was initially flagged for offside but VAR confirmed it was a good goal as White was level with her defender on the feed. The referee struggled to get the game restarted after Cameroon insisted on holding a team meeting at midfield before finally returning to their positions after multiple pleas. The referee had a high level of tolerance not to show any cautions, and the halftime whistle came soon after the eventual restart.
After the break, Cameroon seemed to have redirected their petulance into purpose, taking advantage of a sloppy giveaway by England goalkeeper Karen Bardsley and Ajara Nchout blasted a powerful finish. However, VAR struck again and its Hawkeye technology determined that Nchout was just a hair offside on the turnover, nullifying the goal and providing the game with its most controversial moment. The Cameroon players were an emotional wreck at the decision, with a number of them crying and head coach Alain Djeumfa was reduced to plead with his squad to continue the match. Even England head coach Phil Neville came over to lend an emotional hand before play finally restarted.
Another mistake at the back by England’s Alex Greenwood let Alexandra Takounda have a free path at goal but Bardsley saved well in the one-on-one. Greenwood made amends and picked up England’s third in the 58th minute off a set-piece and the game was for all intents and purposes over with Cameroon all over the place. England continued to pour on the attack and came close to a fourth on multiple occasions. In the 82nd minute England broke but a shot was cleared off the line by Estelle Johnson who raced back to save Cameroon from conceding again. Cameroon pushed for a consolation strike late but could not find the moment.
Deep into stoppage time, VAR again was consulted to show Cameroon substitute Alexandra Takounda a yellow card for a studs-up tackle on Houghton on a decision that could have again resulted in a red. Cameroon players again reacted petulantly to Houghton’s injury, screaming at her and the referee during the VAR check.
Mercifully, the final whistle came and England moved on to the quarterfinals where they will take on Norway, a rematch of a knockout stage match four years ago. Cameroon bows out and it remains that no African team has won a World Cup knockout stage game.