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“The priority is not to accept another goal,” France coach Bruno Bini said through a translator. “When that happens, you’ve had it. We conceded another goal and that was it for us.”

Despite the loss, the World Cup was a resounding success for the French, who made their first appearance in the semifinals and qualified for next summer’s London Olympics.

The U.S. was staked to an early lead by Cheney’s goal in the ninth minute. But with the silky smooth Louisa Necib calling the shots, France dominated for most of the game, finishing with a whopping 25-11 advantage in shots. The French missed two great chances in the first half, with goalkeeper Hope Solo having to tip a Gaetane Thiney shot away in the 30th and Sonia Bompastor rattling the crossbar two minutes later.

Finally, in the 55th, France got its equalizer. Bompastor floated in a cross from about 30 yards and, with the dangerous Gaetane Thiney right in front of her, Solo had little opportunity to move. The ball flew right past her.

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.

“In the end, we’re in the finals,” Wambach said, “and that’s all that matters.”