Phil Neville on Cameroon VAR mess: ‘It didn’t feel like football’

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An awkward, emotional, and occasionally cringe-worthy 90 minutes was played in Valenciennes. It was hard to watch at times as decision after decision went against Cameroon and their players grew increasingly emotional.

Cameroon saw VAR overturn an offside flag to allow England’s second goal by Ellen White just before halftime and VAR disallowed Cameroon’s potential first goal just after the break. The African nation reacted emotionally to both decisions in moments that were painful to view.

With halftime looming, the Cameroon players huddled for a long period of time, causing some to wonder if they were refusing to kick off after the decision to allow White’s goal. At the height of the emotions following the cancellation of the 48th minute Nchout goal, Cameroon players were seen crying, jumping up and down in anger, and gesturing wildly on the sidelines. Head coach Alain Djeumfa was required to console multiple players who lost control of emotions. Nchout in particular was inconsolable as Seedorf tried to calm her down forcibly.

After the match, England head coach Phil Neville had harsh words for the Cameroon players who he felt should conduct themselves in a more professional manner despite their perceived adversity.

“It didn’t feel like football, I’ve got to be honest,” Neville said in his immediate post-match interview on the field. “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 quarterfinal, but I’ve got to say that that wasn’t football for me.”

Neville continued, clearly targeting the actions of the Cameroon players who were set off by the refereeing decisions. He said it put his players in an awkward position as they just looked to complete a solid 90 minutes of play, praising his players for handling the situation as best they could and wishing the Cameroon players took their responsibility as role models on a world stage with more professionalism.

“That wasn’t a World Cup last 16 in terms of the behavior that I want to see from football,” Neville said. “As you know this is going out worldwide, and I can’t stand here and say that I particularly enjoyed it, my players didn’t enjoy it. At halftime they were confused about the actions, about what they should do. They kept their concentration fantastically, they did their job, but the images going out worldwide about how to act…there are young girls that are playing all over the world seeing that behavior, for me it’s not right, and I can’t stand here and say ‘it’s fantastic, it’s brilliant, we’re into the quarterfinal’ there’s a bigger picture here. There’s a certain standard of behavior that you’ve got to do…my players did that, and I’m proud.”

Neville continued to elaborate when he did his post-match press conference. “If that was any of my players they would never play for England again with that kind of behavior. I feel sorry for the referee, I think she was trying to protect football by not giving the penalty and the sending off at the end.”

With the loss Cameroon drops out of the World Cup while England advances to the quarterfinals to take on Norway.