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'Ashamed' Neville lambastes Cameroon for behaviour in England defeat

‘If that was any of my players – and it will never be any of my players – they would never play for England again…’

Updated Jun 23rd 2019, 10:08 PM

ENGLAND MANAGER PHIL Neville insisted he had no sympathy for Cameroon over the ‘correct’ decisions which went against them in their 3-0 World Cup last-16 defeat to England, and blasted the Indomitable Lionesses’ on-field behaviour which included their going on strike following England’s VAR-assisted second goal.

Following an ill-tempered affair during which all control was lost on several occasions but England emerged 3-0 victors to book a World Cup quarter-final with Norway, Neville expressed his sympathy for Chinese referee Liang Quin and claimed Cameroon had disgraced the women’s game with their behaviour throughout.

As well as the African side’s protests against VAR decisions and their threats to walk off the field of play, England were forced to contend with a series of other incidents — Toni Duggan’s arm appearing to be spat on by defender Augustine Ejangue, a penalty being denied, and Alexandra Takounda’s horrendous challenge on captain Steph Houghton to name just three.

England v Cameroon - FIFA Women's World Cup 2019 - Round of Sixteen - Stade de Nice Phil Neville and England's coaching staff sing the English national anthem. Source: Richard Sellers

A fuming Neville first spoke on BBC television after his side’s victory, and he wasn’t in the mood to dish out a PR line.

“It didn’t feel like football,” he said.

I know we get these these briefs about coming on TV and saying it was good game, but that wasn’t a last-16 tie in terms of behaviour from footballers. This is going out worldwide.

“I didn’t enjoy it, the players didn’t enjoy it and my players kept their concentration, but those images are going out worldwide and young girls are seeing that behaviour and it’s not right.

“There has to be a standard of behaviour that you have to do, and my players did that.”

Asked if he had any sympathy for Cameroon, Neville replied: “None.

“The rules are rules. for the second goal, Ellen White was onside, deal with it.

“We are spoken to by Fifa about 350,000 times and in the end, the referee took pity on them. They should count their lucky stars that it wasn’t five or six. A team that are refusing to play… I’m proud of my players for playing a game of football.”

Speaking later to BBC Radio Five Live, Neville added: “I want to stand here and say brilliant things about my players – the way they kept their concentration and some of the quality of passes. But there’s something bigger happening at this World Cup.

“We are trying to promote the women’s game – we’re trying to make it bigger and better. When images like that and behaviour like that goes out worldwide, that’s not good.

“Win, lose or draw, I’d never expect my players to do that. You have to accept the rules are the rules, that the referees make the right calls and get on with it.

“At times we probably didn’t know whether the game would continue. It’s not football.

“My daughter wants to be a footballer and if she watches that she’ll think, ‘No, I want to play netball.’”

England v Cameroon - FIFA Women's World Cup 2019 - Round of Sixteen - Stade de Nice Phil Neville remonstrates with his opposite number. Source: John Walton

At his post-match press conference, Neville elaborated on his disgust at the behaviour of Cameroon’s players, and also took a dig at their manager, Alain Djeumfa.

I came to this World Cup to be successful, but also to play a part in making women’s football globally more visible, globally better; to put on a show that the rest of the world can see — that women’s football is improving, it’s getting to a level of excitement and quality; the crowds, the stadium, what we’ve seen in the World Cup so far. And I sat through 90 minutes of football there and felt ashamed. [I was] 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.

“I make no bones about it: I didn’t enjoy the game for that reason, my players didn’t enjoy the game for that reason apart from the fact we’re now in a quarter-final and we’ve got momentum.

And all those young girls who are watching back in England, and the young boys playing in grassroots football watching — we’ve had five, six seven-million people watching us, watching England play an international game against Cameroon, with that kind of behaviour — I think it’s pretty sad.

“And I can’t sit here now and just gloss over it, fudge it. I’ve got to tell the truth to everybody. And that’s how I felt on the touchline, that’s how my players felt.

“It takes it back to the times when you were a kid when you lost and you went home crying with your ball.

When I started in management, I think it was Arsene Wenger told me, ‘The team mirror[s] the manager’. And obviously their team mirrored their manager. If that was any of my players — and it will never be any of my players — they would never play for England again with that kind of behaviour.

“I felt sorry for the referee,” Neville added. “The decisions were correct. The referee, at the end, was probably trying to protect football by not giving the penalty, not giving the sending off. She was trying to protect football, and I admire her unbelievably for that.”


D9whFu0WkAAWHIg Duggan was spat on during the action.

Regarding the spitting incident involving Cameroon’s Ejangue and England’s Duggan, the latter the victim, Neville said: “[The press officer] just mentioned it to me now,” he told a news conference. “I think it’s pretty clear, so it’s unacceptable.

“I will praise Toni Duggan because that, for me, is the worst form of anything you can do on a football pitch really. There’s no place for it on a football pitch.

“Toni Duggan was fantastic, the way she handled it. I think it showed the humility and class my players showed. She wiped it off her and got on with playing football. That, for me, makes me very proud.”

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