Hosts France won through to the quarter-finals of the women’s World Cup on Sunday as Amandine Henry’s extra-time strike secured a tense victory over Brazil to see them progress alongside England, who defeated Cameroon in a bad-tempered affair earlier.
France are desperate to follow in the footsteps of their male counterparts and win a first World Cup as hosts, and they edged out Brazil 2-1 after extra time in their last-16 clash in Le Havre thanks to captain Henry, who turned in Amel Majri’s free-kick in the 106th minute at the Stade Oceane.
Les Bleues progress to a last-eight tie back in Paris next weekend, which will be a heavyweight showdown with holders the US, provided they get the better of Spain on Monday.
“It was tense, really, really tense, against a great side. We put everything into it and never gave up,” said the France coach, Corinne Diacre.
France had been denied a first-half opener when Valerie Gauvin’s headed effort was disallowed following a VAR review for a foul on Brazil goalkeeper Barbara, but Gauvin converted Kadidiatou Diani’s assist to give the hosts the lead seven minutes into the second half.
However, Brazil hit back and a Cristiane header was turned onto the bar before Thaisa made it 1-1 just past the hour mark, her strike eventually being given having originally been disallowed for an offside against Debinha.
Into extra time they went, and Lyon star Henry had the last word to spark scenes of joy in the crowd of almost 24,000.
The French could yet end up facing England in the last four, with Phil Neville’s team easing through to the quarter-finals thanks to a 3-0 win over Cameroon in Valenciennes.
Goals from captain Steph Houghton, Ellen White – her fourth of the tournament – and Alex Greenwood at the Stade du Hainaut took England through to the next round, where they will play Norway.
Neville ‘ashamed’ of Cameroon
However, the last-16 tie will be best remembered for the Cameroon players’ furious response to several refereeing decisions, which included them apparently threatening to walk off the pitch at one point.
“I sat through the 90 minutes of football there and felt ashamed – 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,” fumed Neville.
“It takes you back to the times when you were a kid, and you lost and you went home crying with your ball.”
Cameroon coach Alain Djeumfa claimed his team had been the victims of an “injustice”, and they were certainly hard done by at the manner in which England’s opening goal came about in the 14th minute.
‘Against African countries’
Houghton’s strike came from an indirect free-kick awarded in the box when goalkeeper Annette Ngo Ndom picked up what was adjudged to have been a backpass.
Their anger reached boiling point when White’s goal to make it 2-0 in first-half stoppage time was initially disallowed for offside before being awarded after Chinese referee Qin Liang consulted with the Video Assistant Referee.
It was the correct decision, but their players surrounded the referee, pointing to the big screen replays of the goal and seemingly threatening to walk off.
Further confusion came just three minutes after the restart when Cameroon thought they had pulled a goal back to make it 2-1, but Ajara Nchout’s effort was eventually disallowed for offside after the referee had again consulted with the VAR. Greenwood swept in England’s third goal soon after.
“VAR should be for everyone but we get the impression that they are against the African countries and it is shameful for a World Cup,” fumed Cameroon midfielder Raissa Feudjio.