Cameroon’s players took exception to a number of decisions from Chinese referee Liang Qin, particularly the decision to award Ellen White’s goal before the break and disallow Ajara Nchout’s strike when the game restarted.
There were more incidents throughout the game, including Toni Duggan being spat on and a late challenge on captain Steph Houghton which Neville admits has left him “concerned” when it comes to the condition of the defender.
“I came to this World Cup to be successful but also to play a part in making women’s football globally more visible and better, to put on a show for the world to see it’s improving and getting to a better level of excitement.
“I sat through 90 minutes and felt ashamed. I’m proud of my own players performances and behaviour under circumstances I’ve never seen before. I was completely and utterly ashamed of the behaviour of the opposition.”
Goals from White, Houghton and Alex Greenwood saw England through comfortably but Neville had little time to reflect on a performance he said he couldn’t “enjoy” after the match, despite progression to the quarter-finals.
“All the young girls and boys watching us play a game with that kind of behaviour. I didn’t enjoy the game and neither did my players. I think it’s pretty sad. I can’t gloss over it and fudge it. I have to tell the truth. I’m so proud of their behaviour in circumstances I’ve never seen.
“Arsene Wenger once told me the team mirrors the manager, their team mirrored the manager. If that was my players, they would never play for England again. I feel sorry for the referee. The decisions were correct, she was trying to protect football by not giving a penalty or a sending off. I admire her unbelievably.”
Neville also said there were incidents of “fighting” in the VIP area during the game and at the team hotel, which the two teams are sharing, pre-match, but wouldn’t be drawn any further on the details of what happened.
The Lionesses head coach though did reserve praise for the Cameroon supporters who made themselves heard throughout the match and in Valenciennes during the build-up to the second-round encounter.
Describing it as an “isolated” incident, Neville hopes it is an issue that won’t happen again in the future.
“Their supporters were dancing and singing, that’s what the World Cup is all about. I love the joy they bring, dancing into the dressing rooms. You could feel their emotion and their hurt. The images will be powerful, that will be enough to stop them doing it in the future.”
Neville added, “We’re here to promote women’s football. We want the image to be good for the little girl playing in the parks. To have two African teams in the knockouts is fantastic. I believe the actions were so bad for the game I have fallen in love with. They will learn, I hope.”
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