Abby Wambach leads USA to FIFA Women’s World Cup Final

For the second-straight game Abby Wambach scored a clutch header for the USA, this timenetting a 79th-minute game-winner in a 3-1 victory against France that earned the U.S. Women’s National Team its third appearance in the FIFA Women’s World Cup Final and first since 1999.

In a match played in misty rain, Lauren Cheney scored the first goal and assisted on the Wambach winner, while 22-year-old Alex Morgan scored her first career Women’s World Cup goal with the third and final tally of the day.

"France played very well, but there’s something to be said about our players and their heart," said U.S. Women’s National Team head coach Pia Sundhage. "There’s a reason why these players come off the bench and make a difference because this team is 21 players and I’m very proud of them. At times, we didn’t play well today, but we found a way to win. Credit to the players’ heart and that’s what makes it so wonderful to coach for this team." 

The U.S. now travels to Frankfurt to face Japan in the FIFA Women’s World Cup Final on Sunday, July 17, in Frankfurt at 2 p.m. ET. The U.S. will be seeking its third title, while Japan, which defeated Sweden 3-1 in tonight’s other semifinal, will be looking for its first championship.

On a gray, rainy day at Borussia Park in Moenchengladbach the U.S. had a bright start, scoring the game’s first goal in the ninth minute with Cheney starting and finishing the play. France cleared a header to midfield, where Cheney took a settling touch to Shannon Boxx who immediately played the ball wide left to Amy LePeilbet.

The U.S. left back played the ball up the sideline to Carli Lloyd, who after a miss-touch toward the middle of the field, played a cheeky back heel further down the wing to Heather O’Reilly. O’Reilly immediately used her speed to get toward the end line, playing a left-footed cross that Cheney redirected out of the air and inside the back post following a 50-yard run into the six-yard box.

Despite the early U.S. advantage, France show its immense talent in the midfield, creating a 25-11 advantage in shots and while controlling the middle portion of the game that saw Les Bleus take the game to the Americans with some dynamic attacking play. The U.S. defense, which included Becky Sauerbrunn making her Women’s World Cup debut in the place of the suspended Rachel Buehler, held strong and, despite the disparity in shots, played a strong game as a unit.

In the 29th minute, France ran at the U.S. backline with Louisa Necib playing the ball wide right for Gaetane Thiney who was in alone against Hope Solo. As Solo charged out to her right to cut down the angle, Thiney tried the chip but the U.S. goalkeeper stuck up her right arm knocking the ball out for a corner with her biggest of seven saves on the day.

Four minutes later, Necib played a simple pass on a free kick to Bombpastor who nearly equalized for a French side growing in confidence. After a U.S. foul on France’s left wing, Necib dropped the ball back for the French left back who hit a left-footed blast from top edge of the 18-yard box that rattled the crossbar.

Wambach twice had chances to put the U.S. up by two going into the half, but could not turn a cross from a long run forward by Christie Rampone on goal from a tight angle in the 38th minute. One minute later, Boxx had Laura Georges sliding the wrong way before delivering a near post cross that Wambach put just wide of the post.

The second half opened with France pressing and Necib feeding Thiney in behind Ali Krieger, but the combination of a bad touch by the French forward and some hustle by Krieger prevented a shot. Ten minutes later, however, France would finally break through.

The equalizer was set up by French captain Sandrine Soubeyrand, who switched the ball from right to left, finding Bombpastor in space on the flank. Thiney started a run into the center of the area and Bombpastor picked her out. The cross, however, sailed just over Thiney’s head and, with Solo staying in position anticipating the header, skipped once on the slick surface before setting inside the back post.

With the game now tied, Sundhage made a pair of changes. The first saw Morgan come in for Amy Rodriguez in the 56th minute, and nine minutes later Megan Rapinoe replaced Carli Lloyd. With Lloyd going off, Lauren Cheney slid centrally alongside Boxx in the middle while Rapinoe started patrolling the left flank from which she set up the game-tying goal in the quarterfinals.

The changes paid dividends with the U.S. finding a rhythm and slowly start to hold more possession in the midfield. Rapinoe started the play that resulted in a corner kick to set up the winning goal when she snagged a poor clearance from goalkeeper Berangere Sapowicz and whipped in a cross from the left. Wambach and Bombpastor fell in the area as the cross went to O’Reilly, who won the corner.

Cheney lofted her cross from the right side to the far post, where Wambach charged to bury a towering header in the net from inside the six-yard box. The goal was good for a 2-1 lead and was Wambach’s 12th in the Women’s World Cup, tying her for third all-time with Michelle Akers, who holds the U.S. record. The assist was Cheney’s third of the tournament, most of any U.S. player.

With France still smarting from Wambach’s strike, Alex Morgan used her pace and deft finishing ability to give the U.S. a two goal cushion in the 82nd minute. Amy LePeilbet slid the ball away from pacey French winger Elodie Thomis and Rampone quickly played the ball forward where Wambach was waiting. Her header found Rapinoe, who stabbed with her right foot to play a ball into space for Morgan. The ball took a deflection off Georges, but nonetheless Morgan let the ball take her wide, waited for Sapowicz to go down and delicately arced her left-footed chip over the goalkeeper and into the back of the net.

– U.S. Women’s National Team Match Report –
Match:U.S. Women’s National Team vs. France
Date:July 13, 2011
Competition:2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup – Semifinal
Venue:Borussia Park; Monchengladbach, Germany
Kickoff:6 p.m. local / Noon ET
Weather:Light rain; 58 degrees
Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 1 2 3
FRA 0 1 1
USA – Lauren Cheney (Heather O’Reilly) 9thminute
FRA – Sonia Bombpastor (Sandrine Soubeyrand) 55
USA – Abby Wambach (Lauren Cheney) 79
USA – Alex Morgan (Megan Rapinoe) 82


USA:1-Hope Solo; 11-Ali Krieger, 4-Becky Sauerbrunn, 3-Christie Rampone (capt.), 6-Amy LePeilbet; 9-Heather O’Reilly (17-Tobin Heath, 87), 7-Shannon Boxx, 10-Carli Lloyd (15-Megan Rapinoe, 65), 12-Lauren Cheney; 8-Amy Rodriguez (13-Alex Morgan, 56), 20-Abby Wambach

Subs not used: 2-Heather Mitts, 5-Kelley O’Hara, ,14-Stephanie Cox, , 16-Lori Lindsey, , 18-Nicole Barnhart, 21-Jill Loyden
Not Eligible: 19-Rachel Buehler (suspension)
Head coach: Pia Sundhage

FRA:16-Berangere Sapowicz; 11-Laure Lepailleur, 4-Laura Georges, 5-Ophelie Meilleroux, 8-Sonia Bompastor; 6-Sandrine Soubeyrand (capt.) (12-Elodie Thomis, 78), 15-Elise Bussaglia; 10-Camille Abily, 14-Louisa Necib, 17-Gaetane Thiney; 18-Marie-Laure Delie (9-Eugenie Le Sommer, 46)

Subs not used: 1-Celine Deville, 21-Laetitia Philippe, 2-Wendie Renard, 3-Laure Boulleau, 7-Corine Franco, 13-Caroline Pizzala, 19-Sandrine Bretigny, 20-Sabrina Viguier
Head coach:Bruno Bini

Statistical Summary: USA / FRA
Shots: 11 / 25
Shots on Goal: 5 / 8
Saves: 7 / 2
Corner Kicks: 5 / 11
Fouls: 12 / 10
Offside: 2 / 4
Misconduct Summary:
FRA – Elodie Thomis (caution) 90thminute
Referee: Kirsi Heikkinen (FIN)
Assistant Referee 1: Tonja Paavola (FIN)
Assistant Referee 2: Anu Jokela (FIN)
Fourth Official: Yolanda Parga Rodriguez (ESP)
Bud Light Woman of the Match:Abby Wambach

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