Millie Bright and Fran Kirby featured in England’s last-16 victory against Cameroon this evening and will face Norway in the quarter-final of the Women’s World Cup.
England let the football do the talking as they produced an excellent 3-0 performance in Valenciennes against a very physical Cameroon side to progress to the last eight of the Women’s World Cup. England captain Steph Houghton scored early on from a set-piece, Ellen White netted on the stroke of half-time, and Alex Greenwood put the icing on the cake in the second half.
This evening’s clash with Cameroon was the Lionesses’ second Women’s World Cup game against a CAF nation. The first time was back in 1995 when England won 3-2 against Nigeria. Cameroon tried their best to become the first African side to win a knockout match at a Women’s World Cup, but the third in the world proved far too strong for the Cameroonians.
The Lionesses made three changes of personnel from their match against Japan which meant Manchester United’s Greenwood, Nikita Parris of Lyon and Kirby returned to the line-up. They set up in their usual 4-3-3 formation under Phil Neville, with Blues’ Bright positioned at centre-back alongside Houghton, while Kirby was placed in her newly adopted role in being the playmaker behind the front three. Karen Carney and Carly Telford were unused substitutes.
Cameroon were unchanged from their dramatic 2-1 win over Ali Riley’s New Zealand in their final group stage match.
The Lionesses had a strong start and enjoyed much of the ball throughout the clash with the possession statistics being 63 per cent to Cameroon’s 37. Moreover, it took England just 15 minutes to take the lead when Houghton netted from an indirect free-kick.
Kirby began the counter-attack that led to the goal when she threaded through a perfectly timed pass to White, who drilled a ball across the six-yard box towards Barcelona’s Toni Duggan. However, Augustine Ejangue intercepted the ball and knocked back to her goalkeeper, only for the referee to blowher whistle for a back pass. Eleven Cameroon players lined up on the goal line, but Houghton's effort was calmly slotted home.
England doubled their lead in added time of the first half and White netted her fourth goal of this tournament. Lyon’s Lucy Bronze powered forward and tapped a ball through to White who was in plenty of space on the edge of the box, and the striker turned and placed her effort into the bottom corner. Following the goal, there was a controversial delay due to consultation with the VAR review team. Extraordinary scenes followed the goal's award, with the Cameroon team initially refusing to restart the match.
The second half continued in just as bizarre fashion as the first, and VAR reviewed another goal, this time for Cameroon. Ajara Nchout fired home from close range, but her provider Gaelle Enganomouit was in an offside position when she whipped her cross into her team-mate, and to add to the Africans' frustration it was disallowed.
Emotions were running high for Cameroon, and late tackles were appearing more frequently, yet the Lionesses continued to play with class and purpose. England increased their cushion on 58 minutes when Greenwood scored from a set-piece. The left-back raced on to meet Duggan’s corner and slammed the ball beyond Annette Ngo Ndom in between Cameroon's sticks.
In the closing stages of the game, Kirby had her foot stamped on by Ysis Sonkeng in the box when she was about to play in Jodie Taylor, but after yet another VAR review, the referee decided against awarding a penalty.
Although England dominated the match, there were lapses of concentration from the defence which allowed the Cameroonian captain Gabrielle Aboudi Onguene and Nchout each to get a sight of goal. But, full credit goes to the England players who handled an array of challenges posed by Cameroon and still managed to remain cool throughout the 90 minutes.
After Maren Mjelde, Maria Thorisdottir and Guro Reiten’s Norway beat Australia 4-1 on penalties last night, England will now go on to face the Scandinavians in Le Havre in the quarter-final on 27 June.