Sat, 14 Dec 2019

Paris - England captain Steph Houghton brushed off concerns about the manner of her team's win over Cameroon at the women's World Cup as Phil Neville's side prepare for a testing quarter-final tie against Norway.

A 3-0 victory for England in Valenciennes on Sunday was largely overshadowed by Neville's post-match tirade saying he was "completely and utterly ashamed" by Cameroon's behaviour.

That included threatening to stop playing on two separate occasions in protest at decisions made by the Chinese referee, while Neville also said forward Toni Duggan had been spat at on the pitch in one of numerous flashpoints.

However, England did not look completely at ease before Ellen White's strike to make it 2-0 in first-half stoppage time and were fortunate not to concede in the second half, being opened up at the back on several occasions after a Cameroon goal had been disallowed for offside.

"You have those spells in football, you are not going to have the perfect performance, and ultimately for five or 10 minutes we were a little bit shaky, a little bit under the cosh, but it is about how you come out of that," said Houghton, who scored England's opener at the Stade du Hainaut.

"We came out of it with a clean sheet so we are really happy."

England have won all four games so far in France and have conceded just once, in their opening match against Scotland, although they have often had goalkeeper Karen Bardsley to thank for that.

"You have to expect in the round of 16 that no team is going to give you an easy pass and they certainly did not," said Nikita Parris after returning to England's starting line-up for the Cameroon game.

The Liverpudlian forward will now hope to keep her place despite fierce competition for spots in attack.

"I feel like personally I've had a fantastic tournament so far but that means nothing if I don't improve in the next game but I'll rest and recover and make sure I'm on fire against Norway," she said.

Former World Cup winners Norway reached the last eight by beating Australia on penalties after an engrossing 120 minutes on Saturday, and they represent a step up in class from a Cameroon team ranked 46th in the world.

They have so far coped admirably in the absence of exiled Ballon d'Or winner Ada Hegerberg and head to Le Havre hoping to gain revenge for a 2-1 defeat at England's hands in the last 16 of the 2015 World Cup.

"I thought Norway and Australia really went end to end and it was an intense game," said Houghton, who scored England's equaliser as they came from behind to win that match in Ottawa four years ago.

"We will respect Norway, they are a very good side. We played them at the last World Cup and it was a tough game so we expect much of the same."

Houghton will hope to be fit for Thursday's encounter after a nasty late challenge by Cameroon's Alexandra Takounda on Sunday left her requiring treatment on an ankle injury, with Neville later saying he was "concerned" about the 31-year-old Manchester City stalwart.

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