The US women’s national team is headed back to the world’s biggest stage.
Striker Abby Wambach thundered home a header off a corner kick in the 79th minute and youngster Alex Morgan added a gorgeous breakaway chip in the 82nd as the Americans pulled away from France in a 3-1 win in the semifinals of the Women’s World Cup on Wednesday in Mönchengladbach, Germany.
The US will play upset-minded Japan in the final on Sunday (2:45 pm ET, ESPN), marking their first appearance in the World Cup final since they last won the tournament in 1999. Japan stunned Sweden 3-1 in the other semifinal on Wednesday, and will play in their first-ever World Cup final.
The United States extended their undefeated streak against France to 13 games (12-0-1), and they are also unbeaten in 25 matches all-time against Japan (22-0-3).
Wambach’s emphatic back-post header — which came off a Lauren Cheney corner kick — gave the imposing US striker 12 career goals all-time in the World Cup, tying her with Michelle Akers as the US’ all-time leading scorer in the World Cup.
Morgan then added a breakaway finish that ended any hopes for the upset-minded French, who rallied from an early US goal from Cheney and seemed poised to upset the Americans by controlling much of the tempo early in the second half.
The US entered the match with an adjusted back line, with Becky Sauerbrunn filling in for the suspended Rachel Buehler, and team captain Christie Rampone switching from right center back to left.
The French nearly drew level in the 33rd minute when defender Sonia Bompastor received a pass from a free kick and sent a one-timed left-footed strike that bounced back off the crossbar.
France finally found their equalizer in the 55th minute off the left foot of Bompastor, when her cross from deep on the left side of the pitch went untouched through traffic and slipped past US goalkeeper Hope Solo and into the back of the net.
The US got on the board in the ninth minute when Heather O'Reilly streaked down the left flank and skipped a cross to Cheney, who redirected the ball into the back of the net for her second career World Cup goal.
It was a milestone day for both Shannon Boxx and Solo, who earned their 150th and 100th international caps, respectively.