Though the United States' 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup semifinal match against France didn't have quite the heart-stopping drama of the quarterfinal against Brazil, there were a lot of similarities between the two games. Like against Brazil, the USA looked second best for most of their match against France. Like against Brazil, their opponent was able to score a goal that put the game in doubt. And like against Brazil, the USWNT prevailed.
After a 3-1 victory that included fantastic performances from substitutes Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe, the United States are through to the World Cup final for the first time since 1999. They now await the result of the late semifinal match, between Sweden and Japan.
It took until the 9th minute of the game for the United States to make their first serious venture forward, but when they got into a dangerous position, they made the most of it. On a counter attack, Heather O'Reilly surged down the left and provided a low cross into the box for Lauren Cheney, who finished with one brilliant touch, scoring the opening goal.
Throughout the rest of the first half, France was the better side but was not able to break through and equalize. Solo made five first half saves and Sonia Bompastor hit the crossbar on another shot, so it seemed like it was only a matter of time before Les Bleues found the back of the net.
They would finally score in the 55th minute, and it was Bompastor who hit the back of the net, though she didn't necessarily mean to. Eugenie Le Sommer, substituted in for Marie-Laure Delie at halftime, made a great diagonal run into the box, providing a target for Bompastor. The left back swung in a cross for Le Sommer, but the striker missed the ball. U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo was anticipating a header, so she was caught wrong-footed when Le Sommer miss, allowing Bompastor's cross to sail directly into the net.
In reaction, Pia Sundhage made a couple of substitutions, bringing Alex Morgan on for Amy Rodriguez and Megan Rapinoe on for Carli Lloyd, a sub that moved Cheney into the center of midfield. Those substitutions didn't solve the United States' tactical problems, but they didn't need to. The fresh legs of those players proved to be a big enough change.
The United States would find their eventual winner in the 79th minute. Unsurprisingly, it was scored by Abby Wambach. Also unsurprisingly, she did it off a corner kick. Cheney hit a fantastic out-swinging delivery to the far post and Wambach met it perfectly, hitting a powerful header into the back of the net after a run from deep. Six minutes later, Alex Morgan added the nail in the coffin, scoring off an assist by Rapinoe with a fantastic chip over French goalkeeper Bérangère Sapowicz.
France got their tactics spot on and dominated possession, but their poor defending and goalkeeping was their undoing, while United States central defenders Becky Sauerbrunn and Christie Rampone both put in ten out of ten performances in the middle. The difference between the two sets of central defenders and the two goalkeepers proved to be the ultimate difference in the match, and in that respect, the United States are a deserving finalist.
The United States now awaits the winner of the semifinal between Japan and Sweden, which we are also covering here at SB Nation. For earlier updates on USA vs. France, check out our USA vs. France StoryStream.