POSTED: 07:56 a.m. HST, Jul 13, 2011
LAST UPDATED: 11:48 a.m. HST, Jul 13, 2011
MOENCHENGLADBACH, Germany >> The U.S. kept its fans breathless again. And just like last time, Abby Wambach — who else — came up big.
Wambach broke a tense tie with a thunderous header in the 79th minute, and the U.S. earned its first trip to the World Cup final since winning it in 1999 with a 3-1 victory over France on Wednesday.
"We've achieved part of our goal. We're in the final," Wambach said. "We want to complete it. We want to be world champs."
Lauren Cheney and Alex Morgan also scored for the Americans, who will play Japan on Sunday in Frankfurt. If the U.S. wins, it would be the first team to claim three World Cup titles.
The Americans had only two days' rest following the Brazil game, their quickest turnaround of the tournament, and there had been concern that fatigue or emotions might get the best of them. But Wambach, who has been playing with an Achilles' tendon so sore it often keeps her out of practice, dismissed that idea.
And she sure didn't look hobbled.
Lauren Cheney, who'd staked the Americans to an early lead with her goal in the ninth minute, took a corner kick in the 79th and immediately looked for the star forward. Wambach is one of the world's best in the air, and France was guarding her tightly. But Cheney delivered the ball perfectly to the far post, and the 5-foot-11 Wambach soared over the scrum, pushing the ball past French goalkeeper Berangere Sapowicz.
In the other semifinal, Japan rallied to defeat Sweden 3-1.