USA crush France 3-1 to reach World Cup finals

MOENCHENGLADBACH, Germany, July 13, 2011 (AFP) - Favourites the United States crushed France 3-1 to advance to the women's World Cup final here on Wednesday.

Lauren Cheney (9), Abby Wambach (79), and Alex Morgan (82) kept the Americans' bid for an unprecedented third World Cup title after 1991 and 1999 on track with Sonia Bompastor getting a goal back for France after 55 minutes.

AFP - USA's teammates (R) celebrate as France's look on after their game

The reigning Olympic champions will next play either Sweden or Japan for the title in Frankfurt next Sunday.

"I think France played very well. We lost our legs in the second half but then we picked it up," said US coach Pia Sundhage.

"Abby, she's just the best. I'm very happy to have her in our team."

Wambach added: "I'm just so proud of this team. Everyone believes in this team and we're all working for each other. We had to play nearly perfect, they got a goal back on us but in the end we're in the finals and that's all that matters."

France coach Bruno Bini lamented their missed chances.

"We had a lot of chances and played a very good game except the first ten minutes," said Bini.

"We were as good as we could have been. It was very physical and we stood up to this. But they have a lot of experience. They know how to play at this level and that told today. I thought we could get back to 2-2 but at 3-1 it's over."

Despite the French having most chances at goal in the first half it was the United States who went into the locker room with the half-time advantage after Cheney picked up a Heather O'Reilly cross to tap effortlessly into goal after nine minutes.

France's Louisa Necib had a minute earlier seen her strike go over the bar.

A header from Carli Lloyd went over after 24 minutes, but thereafter France dominated but had little to show for their efforts.

Camille Abily missed a chance to level on 28 minutes from a Bompastor cross but the Lyon midfielder's half volley lacked power and was held by US goalie Hope Solo.

Solo, playing her 100th international, proved solid again a minute later as she caught a Necib effort, and it was then the turn of Bompastor to miss after 33 minutes when she picked up a Necib cross but her left footed shot rattled the crossbar.

The US could have pulled further ahead five minutes before the break when Christie Rampone pushed forward to cross to Wambach at the far post with Wambach's header across the goal just grazing the crossbar.

But Bompastor grabbed the equaliser after 55 minutes as her pass flew past a waiting Gaetane Thiney in the box to curl in off the far post and into the net.

But Wambach claimed the second after 79 minutes as she headed in a Cheney corner past Berangere Sapowicz, with the French goalkeeper left helpless again three minutes later as Rapinoe plays a little ball behind the defense for Morgan to send over the goalie.

As two-time defending champions Germany and Brazil, the 2007 finalists, have already been eliminated the United States were the only remaining pre-tournament favourites in the running.

As well as being ranked number one in the world by FIFA the United States are also the reigning and three-time Olympic champions.

France, by contrast, failed to get past the group stages in their only previous appearance in 2003.

Wednesday's second semi-final sees Sweden take on Japan in Frankfurt.

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