MOENCHENGLADBACH, Germany -- The U.S. kept its fans breathless again. And just like last time, Abby Wambach -- who else -- came up big.
Wambach broke a tense tie with a thunderous header in the 79th minute, and the U.S. earned its first trip to the World Cup final since winning it in 1999 with a 3-1 victory over France on Wednesday.
"We've achieved part of our goal. We're in the final," Wambach said. "We want to complete it. We want to be world champs."
Lauren Cheney and Alex Morgan also scored for the Americans, who will play Japan -- 3-1 winners over Sweden -- on Sunday in Frankfurt. If the U.S. wins, it would be the first team to claim three World Cup titles.
"These wins, we can't do it alone. We know a whole nation is cheering us on," Wambach said. "We believe in ourselves and we're in the final. I couldn't be happier."
The Americans had only two days' rest following the Brazil game, their quickest turnaround of the tournament, and there had been concern that fatigue or emotions might get the best of them. But Wambach, who has been playing with an Achilles' tendon so sore it often keeps her out of practice, dismissed that idea.
Cheney, who'd staked the Americans to an early lead with her goal in the ninth minute, took a corner kick in the 79th and immediately looked for the star forward. Wambach is one of the world's best in the air, and France was guarding her tightly. But Cheney delivered the ball perfectly to the far post, and the 5-foot-11 Wambach soared over the scrum, pushing the ball past French goalkeeper Berangere Sapowicz.
"I knew Abby was going to beat her," Cheney said.
Asked how, Cheney said, "Because she's Abby Wambach."
Wambach let out a scream and did a sliding sprint into the corner, where she was mobbed by her teammates. It was her third goal of the tournament and 12th of her career, tying fellow American Michelle Akers for third on the all-time World Cup scoring list.
France had tied the game in the 55th minute.
But just as they did Sunday against Brazil, the Americans got stronger and stronger as the game went on before Wambach -- who scored a critical goal in the waning moments against the Brazilians -- came through.
Alex Morgan added an insurance goal in the 82nd, the first for the World Cup rookie.
Japan 3, Sweden 1
Homare Sawa made up for a huge error by scoring the go-ahead goal and Japan advanced to the World Cup final with a 3-1 victory over Sweden.
Surprise call-up Nahomi Kawasumi had two goals for Japan, which will be playing in its first World Cup final. Josefine Oqvist scored for Sweden.