England outmuscles Cameroon to reach Women's World Cup quarterfinals

Steph Houghton (5) converts an indirect free kick during England's round of 16 win over Cameroon in Valenciennes. (Getty)
Steph Houghton (5) converts an indirect free kick during England's round of 16 win over Cameroon in Valenciennes. (Getty)

Ahead of England’s round of 16 match against Cameroon, coach Phil Neville struggled to come up with an adjective to describe his team.

How about “quarterfinalists”?

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England outclassed Cameroon 3-0 on Sunday in a testy affair with no shortage of talking points. It starts, as the scoring did, with one of the most unique set pieces you’ll ever see: an indirect free kick.

England’s Ellen White chased down a ball on the touchline and played it back into the box, where Cameroonian defender Augustine Ejangue touched it back to goalkeeper Annette Ngo Ndom, who picked it up.

Under the back pass rule, a keeper is not allowed to touch the ball with her hands if it’s played back by a teammate’s foot. (Any other body part besides the arm or hand is OK.) While the rule can be a gray area that attempts to legislate intent, as it was here, the referee was decisive and blew the whistle immediately:

Since it wasn’t a direct free kick – meaning England couldn’t shoot on goal with its first touch – Toni Duggan stood over the ball and tapped it slightly in the path of Steph Houghton, spun her shot toward the far post where it took a favorable deflection:

The Lionesses went up 2-0 through Ellen White during first-half stoppage time, who polished off Lucy Bronze’s clever through-ball with a left-footed finish:

VAR was used to review a potential offside, but ultimately the goal stood.

Same couldn’t be said for what looked to be Ajara Nchout pulling one back for Cameroon shortly after the break. Gabrielle Onguene was ruled offside in the build-up, and the decision had Cameroon up in collective arms:

The protestations of the Cameroonians emerged as the biggest topic of discussion after the match, prompting England manager Phil Neville to criticize their behavior in a TV interview.

“That wasn't a World Cup last 16 in terms of the behavior that I want to see from footballers,” he said, in part.

In any event, Alex Greenwood scored the third goal in the 48th minute and England saw out the victory.

The Lionesses will face Norway in the quarterfinals, whom they beat 2-1 in the round of 16 at the last World Cup thanks to goals from Bronze and Houghton.

Cameroon, meanwhile, has exited in the knockout stage both times they’ve been to the World Cup. There has been plenty of progress in the program, and the next step is trying to win the Africa Cup of Nations for the first time in 2020.

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