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Jul 13, 2011

USA and Japan to meet in final

Two inspired substitutions and the in-form Abby Wambach helped the USA overcome France 3-1 to seal their place in the Women's World Cup final on Sunday.

The USA needed just nine minutes to make their mark on the game with Heather O'Reilly outpacing Laura Georges to get free down the left and whip in a cross to Cheney, who just got ahead of Sonia Bompastor to stab the ball home.

But France rallied and, with Louisa Necib pulling the strings, went close with Gaetane Thiney forcing USA goalkeeper Hope Solo into a good save. They went even closer as Bompastor shook the crossbar after a clever free-kick found her free on the edge of the box.

Just before half-time, Wambach nearly repeated her heroics of the quarter-final against Brazil, as she found herself on the end of a Christie Rampone high ball, only to head wide.

After the break, France continued to push forward and nearly levelled the scores within a minute as Necib slotted the ball through to Thiney, who took too long over her shot and was closed down. However, the equaliser came soon after through Bompastor as her cross flew straight in past Solo, who had been distracted by the run of Thiney.

Elise Bussaglia had a rasping shot blocked, but the USA had the best chance to go ahead again as substitute Megan Rapinoe's dipping free-kick was saved low down by Berangere Sapowicz and the goalkeeper, back in the side after suspension, saved the follow-up from Alex Morgan with her legs.

France continued to dominate possession but, with ten minutes left, were made to pay for their failure to break down the USA defence as a corner found the head of Wambach. The striker leapt above Sapowicz at the far post to put them ahead once more with a commanding header.

A one-goal lead became two, just two minutes later as Morgan (who had also been brought on from the bench) broke the offside trap. The striker was pushed wide by a heavy touch, but executed a wonderful chip over Sapowicz to seal the USA's place in the final against Japan.

Japan booked their place in the showpiece against the USA after coming from a goal down against Sweden to secure a convincing 3-1 victory, with Nahomi Kawasumi a two-goal heroine.

Sweden broke the deadlock in the 10th minute when a loose pass in the middle of midfield by Homare Sawa was pounced upon by Josefine Oqvist, who burst forward before unleashing a fine strike that flew past goalkeeper Ayumi Kaihori.

But Japan drew level just nine minutes later courtesy of a well-worked attack. Aya Sameshima picked up the ball on the left flank before curling in an inviting cross that Sweden failed to deal with as Kawasumi put pressure on her marker to deflect home.

The momentum was now with the Japanese, who dominated possession following their leveller. Kawasumi threatened with a stinging effort and then Aya Miyama's free-kick from just outside the area dropped wide of Hedvig Lindahl's right-hand post.

Japan continued to apply pressure in the second period and it told in the 59th minute when a delivery from the left flank caused havoc in the Swedish penalty area. Skipper Sawa pounced, heading into an empty net to notch her fourth goal in five outings.

And the Japanese sealed their passage to Sunday's final courtesy of some quality by Kawasumi. Shot-stopper Lindahl came rushing out of her penalty area and only half-cleared, allowing Kawasumi to take one touch before executing a wonderful long-range finish that looped into the net.

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