England sensed even before they had left their base in northern France - the Royal Hinault Hotel and Spa، a recently converted hospital – that they could be in for a difficult afternoon، according to the Daily Mail.
The teams were، unusually، sharing the same hotel and though Phil Neville’s players tried to soak up the Cameroonian noise and colour – their loud sound system playing as they headed out to training on Saturday and dancing in the corridors - there was a bizarre scene just before they set off for the last-16 match.
Cameroon fans had somehow got into the lobby and were fighting between themselves over tickets – for a game that was not even sold out. Cameroon manager Alain Djeumfa goes by the name of ‘Mean Dog’ and he had been less than complimentary about England the night before the game. Neville’s team had ‘many’ weaknesses، he said.
Neville made light of this when he arrived to talk an hour later، joking that ‘he said nice things about me.’ The Cameroonian had actually seemed to imply that everything Neville achieved as a Manchester United and Everton player counted for nothing، now he was in the dugout.
There is a history of Cameroonians feeling they are victim of refereeing conspiracies at World Cups. It’s exactly what the men’s team said at the 1990 World Cup، where they met England in the quarter-finals Their sense of victimhood this time stemmed from the indirect free-kick awarded on the edge of the six-yard box، from which England opened the scoring، after defender Yvonne Leuko had passed back to the goalkeeper. Djeumfa later claimed this was the ‘wrong decision’ though it was impossible to see how.
There were some challenges which bordered on assault in the early stages – including a malicious elbow in the face of Parris for which Leuko should have been dismissed. Then Ellen White’s goal on the stoke of time، initially flagged offside، was correctly judged legitimate by VAR and all hell let loose.