They’re going to Frankfurt!
Thanks to a second-half burst by Abby Wambach and Alex Morgan during yesterday’s 3-1 semifinal victory over France, the No. 1-ranked U.S. women’s team reached their first World Cup final since they won it all at the Rose Bowl in 1999.
Since that time, they’ve had three semifinal misses. But when Wambach headed a Lauren Cheney cross past keeper Berangere Sapowicz in the 79th minute to break a 1-1 tie — her second key goal in as many matches — she ended era of frustration for coach Pia Sundhage’s group.
“This team has a big heart,” Sundhage said as she looked into Sunday’s final against Japan, a 3-1 winner over Sweden in the later game. “And Abby, she’s just the best.”
No women’s team has ever won a World Cup after losing a game in the group stage. But the US, 2-1 losers to Sweden after they had clinched a berth in the knockout rounds, will now have a chance to do that.
The U.S., leg-weary after two trying games against Brazil and France, will have their hands full trying to keep up with the technically sound Japanese and their top player, Homare Sawa, whose game-winner yesterday gave her four goals in five games.
But the U.S. is unbeaten against Japan (22-0-3 all-time), and the Americans defeated Japan in two friendlies preceding the World Cup.
Wambach, scoring her 12th World Cup goal to tie her for the American all-time lead with 1999 champion Michelle Akers, powered her way onto the far post as Cheney sent a perfect corner kick her way. Wambach’s superior size allowed her to wedge herself between a defender and the charging goalkeeper and slip the header behind Sapowicz.
The French controlled most of the action, only to be thwarted by some great defensive work by backs Christie Rampone, Becky Sauerbrunn and Ali Krieger. Goalkeeper Hope Solo did her part, too, making eight saves. Nothing like a little confidence going into the final.
“In the end, we’re in the finals,” Wambach said. “That’s all that matters.”