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Women’s World Cup: U.S. defeats France, 3-1, and reaches final

July 13, 2011 | 11:10 am

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The United States swept into the final of the sixth Women’s World Cup with a convincing 3-1 victory  over France in the semifinal on Wednesday in Moenchengladbach, Germany.

The Americans will play either Sweden or Japan in Sunday’s final in Frankfurt.

Goals by Lauren Cheney, Abby Wambach and Alex Morgan were more than enough to overcome a talented French team that did more of the attacking but could not turn those offensive forays into goals.

Sonia Bompastor scored the lone goal for France, briefly tying the game in the second half before the U.S. reasserted itself.

Trailing, 1-0, at the half,  France Coach Bruno Bini made one change to begin the second 45 minutes, taking off forward Marie-Laure Delie and replacing her with Eugenie Le Sommer.

The French team applied increasing offensive pressure and was rewarded 10 minutes into the half when Bompastor scored to level matters at 1-1.

It was more of a hard pass than a shot by Bompastor, but the ball flashed past teammate Gaetane Thiney and went in off the post. U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo, perhaps distracted by Thiney’s run, could not get near it.

France had scored eight goals in its previous four games, with seven of them being scored in the second half. The U.S., in other words, knew what was coming.

Immediately after the goal, U.S. Coach Pia Sundhage responded by replacing Amy Rodriguez with fellow forward Alex Morgan, a move she has made several times in the tournament.

Sundhage made another offensive change in the 65th minute, taking midfielder Carli Lloyd out and sending in winger Megan Rapinoe. It was Rapinoe who provided the pinpoint cross in the last seconds of the Brazil game that allowed Wambach to head in the tying goal.

Three-quarters of the way through the semifinal, however, it appeared that the French would prevail. Although the score was still tied, they had out-shot the U.S., 12-4, and had earned nine corner kicks to three for the American team.

With 12 minutes or so left in regulation, France again upped the ante, taking off veteran captain Sandrine Soubeyrand and sending on forward Elodie Thomis.

Before that move could play out, the U.S. regained the lead. A corner kick by Cheney, who had scored the first U.S. goal in the ninth minute, found the head of a charging Wambach, and the striker powered the ball into the French net.

The 79th-minute goal was Wambach’s third of the tournament.

No sooner had U.S. fan celebrations died down in the crowd than the Americans put the game on ice with a third goal. This time it was Morgan who scored, off a pass by Rapinoe, the two substitutes combining to good effect.

After that, it was simply a matter of running out the clock in Moenchengladbach and then of looking ahead to Sunday’s final.

In Wednesday’s later semifinal, Sweden will play Japan in Frankfurt.

For full coverage of both semifinals, please see latimes.com/sports/soccer/ later on Wednesday.

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-- Grahame L. Jones

Photo: U.S. players celebrate after defeating France, 3-1, in the Women’s World Cup semifinals Wednesday. Credit:  Ina Fassbender / Reuters

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