Americans reach final

UNITED STATES 3, FRANCE 1

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MOENCHENGLADBACH, Germany --- Abby Wambach sure knows how to deliver.

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United States' Abby Wambach celebrates her go-ahead goal. It was her third goal of the tournament and the 12th of her career.  Associated Press
Associated Press
United States' Abby Wambach celebrates her go-ahead goal. It was her third goal of the tournament and the 12th of her career.

A goal, a promise and soon, she hopes, a World Cup title.

The U.S. women had fans on edge once again until Wambach broke a tense tie with her header off a corner kick in the 79th minute Wednesday. Alex Morgan scored three minutes later to seal a 3-1 semifinal victory over France, and the Americans let loose with a party that carried all the way across the Atlantic Ocean.

Next up, a trip to the World Cup final Sunday in Frankfurt that will be the first for Americans since 1999, when they last won it all. They'll play Japan, which upset Sweden 3-1 to move one step away from realizing its own dream.

"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."

So do their fans, new and old.

The Americans captivated the crowd back home with their epic, come-from-behind win over Brazil on Sunday, and a little thing called a workday wasn't going to deter them. Some fans skipped work -- bars opened early for the noon kickoff -- while others sneaked peeks at the game in the office. At the Phoenix airport, dozens of fans crowded around TVs to watch the game.

When the final whistle blew, Hollywood celebrities, pro athletes and ordinary folks who didn't know a free kick from a corner kick just a few days ago flooded Twitter with congratulations. "My heroes. Wambach. Boxx. Rapinoe. Solo. That TEAM! Our team!" actor Tom Hanks tweeted. Super Bowl MVP Aaron Rodgers said, "Awesome job US Women, finish it off Sunday now."

Wambach and company were glad to share the moment.

"These wins, we can't do it alone. We know a whole nation is cheering us on," she said. "We believe in ourselves and we're in the final. I couldn't be happier."

With the U.S. struggling to create opportunities in the middle, U.S. coach Pia Sundhage replaced Carli Lloyd with sparkplug Megan Rapinoe early in the second half, moved Lauren Cheney inside and pulled Wambach back to the midfield.

The difference was noticeable immediately. The Americans were able to push forward and began threatening French goalkeeper Berangere Sapowicz.

Finally, in the 79th, the Americans won a corner kick.

"I told (Cheney) at halftime, 'Put the ball to the back post, and we're going to get a goal,' " Wambach said.

Cheney delivered the ball perfectly to the far post and, just as Wambach had predicted, she soared over the scrum and pushed the ball past Sapowicz.

Wambach let out a scream and did a sliding sprint into the corner, where she was mobbed by her teammates.

Championship match

Sunday

At Frankfurt, Germany

- United States vs. Japan, 2:45 p.m. (ESPN)


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