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Football
Japan and US secure spots in World Cup final
US outlasts France while Japan defeats Sweden to set up final match in women's soccer final.
Last Modified: 14 Jul 2011 00:15
Alex Morgan (L) of US scores a goal during Women's World Cup semi-final soccer match against France [Reuters]

The United States scored two late goals to beat France 3-1, and an inspired Japan overcame an early deficit to defeat Sweden by the same score, as the two teams secured spots in Women's World Cup final to be played on Sunday.

On its way to the first World Cup final, Japan beat Sweden 3-1 on Wednesday while upsetting host Germany in the quarterfinals.

The Americans earned their third appearance in the final after winning the title in 1991 and 1999.

Both the winning sides struggled through inconsistent play in Moenchengladbach, Germany, where more than 45,000 fans gathered at the city's Commerzbank Arena.

Coming off a thrilling extra-time victory over Brazil in the semi-finals, observers said the US was outplayed for much of its match against a hard-charging French squad.

However, it took two goals in three minutes from Abby Wambach and Alex Morgan to secure a third World Cup final appearance for the Americans.

"This is our journey, this is our dream," Wambach said.

"France are a great team. There were moments they were outplaying us but I am so proud of this team.

"I know we are going to pull through. I have belief in this team. Everybody is working for each other."

French miss chances

The US took an early lead when Lauren Cheney flicked in a Carli Lloyd cross in the ninth minute.

France drew even after the break with a Sonia Bompastor cross that bounced past US goalkeeper Hope Solo.

The Americans then suffered through some sloppy passing while France took complete control.

With US coach Pia Sundhage bellowing from the sidelines, the French dominance almost paid off on the half hour but Gaetane Thiney failed to score on a close-range effort.

With France's coach Bruno Bini bringing on speedy striker Elodie Thomis in search of the winner, the Americans struck at just the right time with a Wambach header inside the far post.

A smooth chip over keeper Berangere Sapowicz from Morgan three minutes later put the game out of reach for the French.

"We had our chances and we had a lot," Bini told reporters. "We were as good as we could have been. But they have a lot of experience."

Japan stays hot

Playing in their first-ever semi-final, the Japanese dominated in the second half to win a place in the final.
Sweden scored early, capitalising on an error by Japan's captain Homare Sawa in the ninth minute.

After the setback of the early goal, Japan methodically got back into the game with short passing combinations which have come to be their trademark.

Sawa, playing in her fifth World Cup, redeemed herself by scoring the go-ahead goal at the beginning of the second half.

In a battle of Japan's skills against the experience of Sweden, the match turned as the second half wore on.

Kawasumi caught Hedvig Lindahl off her line and lobbed her from 35 metres for the third goal, one of the best in a tournament full of excellent strikes, the Associated Press reported.

The Japanese team and its fans have repeatedly referenced the March 11 tsunami and earthquake that devastated their country.

After Wednesday's win the team again unfurled a huge banner that said "To our Friends Around the World - Thank You for Your Support,'' referring to the global outpouring of aid after the tsunami, that left nearly 23,000 dead or missing.

Source:
Agencies
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