MONCHENGLADBACH, GERMANY - Abby Wambach continued to come through in the clutch on Wednesday at the Women's World Cup as she scored the go-ahead goal in the 79th minute of a 3-1 semifinal victory for the United States over France.
The Americans got started early with a ninth-minute goal from Lauren Cheney, but France equalized in the 55th minute when Sonia Bompastor's cross skipped through the penalty area and inside the far post.
But after coming under heavy pressure from France midway through the second half, Wambach popped up again to score another big goal as she headed home Cheney's corner kick to put the U.S. in front.
Alex Morgan then secured the result with a goal of her own three minutes later, which allows the Americans to advance to their third Women's World Cup final on Sunday, where they will meet Japan, which topped Sweden, 3-1, in Wednesday's other semifinal.
The French will now face Sweden in the third-place match on Saturday.
"I'm proud of my players. Life's still beautiful because today we earned the right to fight for third place, which is amazing when you consider nobody was talking about us two months ago," said France coach Bruno Bini. "We came close to winning. The team were nearly there, but the goal didn't come and you just have accept it."
France was appearing in the semifinals for the first time in its history, but things didn't start well as Heather O'Reilly received the ball on the left wing and drove a low cross to the front of goal for Cheney to redirect past goalkeeper Berangere Sapowicz.
France tested U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo on the half-hour mark as Gaetane Thiney got into the penalty area on the left and had her shot tipped past the near post by Solo before a shot from Bompastor rattled the crossbar.
Wambach had two chances go close before halftime, but France took control early in the second half and equalized when Bompastor's cross fooled Solo and skipped inside the far post.
However, the Americans responded with Wambach scoring 11 minutes from time to take the lead with a header from close range, reminiscent of her goal in the 122nd minute against Brazil in the quarterfinals.
"We stayed strong and we kept going when things got tough," said Wambach. "In the dressing room I said to [Lauren] Cheney: 'When we have a corner send the ball to the far post and we'll score'. Her delivery was exceptional. I was so close to the post I thought I was going to bang my head against it, but luckily I made contact with the ball. I couldn't be more excited, proud or happy."
Three minutes later, Morgan sealed the win by picking up the ball 30 yards from goal, carrying it into the area and chipping it over the head of the 'keeper.