Second-half goals from Abby Wambach and Alex Morgan gave the Americans the victory.MONCHENGLADBACH, Germany - What a relief.
After barely sneaking past Brazil in the quarterfinals, the United States women's team is through to the championship game of the Women's World Cup following a 3-1 win over a solid France side in the semis at Borussia-Park.
"When the final whistle blew, the first thought I had was 'one more game,'" said coach Pia Sundhage, whose team will face Japan in the final on Sunday.
Lauren Cheney opened the scoring in the ninth minute before relentless French pressure paid off with a goal from Sonia Bompastor in the 55th minute. However, Abby Wambach, the hero from Sunday's quarterfinal, came through with another headed goal to put the U.S. ahead in the 79th minute.
Second-half substitute Alex Morgan put the game on ice just minutes after Wambach's goal to ensure the Americans' passage into the final."
"Getting the go-ahead goal was a relief," Sundhage said. "Alex Morgan coming on and obvioulsy making a difference scoring that third goal gave us a little security.
The United States got off to a flying start and was ahead within the first 10 minutes of the match. Heather O'Reilly was played down the left side and beat her marker before sending in a low cross to the near post that Cheney was able to get a foot on and steer past French goalkeeper Berangere Sapowicz.
As the first half wore on, however, France started to gain a foothold on the match, forcing several saves out of U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo. France had a golden opportunity to equalize in the 30th minute, but Solo came off her line and stuck her right hand up to deny a French breakaway.
Again France was close to an equalizer as Bompastor struck woodwork from the corner of the 18-yard box off a pass from a free-kick.
Wambach nearly had another headed goal in the 38th minute as defender Christie Rampone made a rampaging run forward and found the U.S. striker at the back post, but she couldn't direct her header on frame. The match entered the half at 1-0 in favor of the U.S.
In a surprise move, at the half France took off its top goalscorer Marie-Laure Delie and replaced her with Eugenie Le Sommer.
France's pressure finally paid off 10 minutes after the break as Bompastor played a long cross in from the left flank that missed everyone in the box and skipped past Solo into the far post. It was no less than the French deserved after taking control of the match.
"We didn't want to let up a goal," Solo said. "It wasn't even a great goal."
Facing the pressure, the Americans brought in a pair of subs as Megan Rapinoe and Morgan were introduced. The subs seemed to invigorate the U.S. as it started to possess the ball more and create more chances in the middle of the second half.
The subs combined as the Americans had a decent chance off a Rapinoe free-kick in the 70th minute, but Sapowicz saved well and Morgan was whistled offside as her rebound attempt was also saved.
As they started to regain control of the match, the Americans grabbed the lead in the 79th minute through Wambach. Lauren Cheney floated a corner kick to the back post and Wambach rose above everybody at the back post and nodded down and in.
"Obviously, you know there's a lot of courage that goes into heading the ball," Wambach said. "But I have a unique ability to predict the flight of the ball and my teammates also have the unique ability of finding me."
Just three minutes later, the U.S. put the match away as the subs combined yet again, Rapinoe playing Morgan in behind the French defense, who calmly chipped over the onrushing goalkeeper and into the back of the net.
The French fought to find a lifeline back into the match, but the U.S. defense held up and saw out the last 10 minutes of the match without conceding a goal.
The final against Japan will be played at Commerzbank-Arena in Frankfurt on Sunday.
Goal.com Germany contributed to this report from Mönchengladbach
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