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England out of Women’s World Cup as USA squeeze through 2-1

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England out of Women’s World Cup as USA squeeze through 2-1
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REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo
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Alex Morgan celebrated her 30th birthday on Tuesday by scoring the decisive goal in a 2-1 United States victory over England in Lyon, France, sending America to the Women's World Cup final.

The United States will play for football's greatest trophy on Sunday, also in Lyon, against the winner of Wednesday's other semifinal match between the Netherlands and Sweden.

England will play the loser of that contest on Saturday in Nice for third place.

The United States barely held on, as U.S. goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher made the save of the tournament by stopping England's Stephanie Houghton on a penalty kick in the 84th minute.

The underdog English appeared to tie it in the 67th minute when their star Ellen White got past defender Abby Dahlkemper and fired a shot past Naeher. But video review showed White was offside, wiping out the equalizer.

Instead it was Morgan, a native of Diamond Bar, California, who would be the match's heroine. The captain headed home Lindsay Horan's pass in the 31st minute, breaking a 1-1 tie.

Horan got the ball from Christen Press, who moments earlier skillfully chested down a high pass along the sideline to maintain possession.

Press, who started place of injured Megan Rapinoe, had given the United States a 1-0 lead in the 10th minute when she headed home a well-struck cross from Kelly O'Hara.

The goal was made possible by Tobin Heath's big run and dummy pass to Rose Lavelle — who let the ball roll by her, taking the attention of two English defenders. That non-touch by Lavelle opened up O'Hara to feed Press, a 30-year-old from Palos Verdes Estates, California.

Press' header barely cleared the fingertips of England's backup goalkeeper, the 5-foot-8 Carly Telford.

England's top keeper, American-born and -raised Karen Bardsley, was injured and unable to play. The 6-foot-tall Bardsley hurt her hamstring in the Lioness' last game against Norway.

England's top gun, White, responded minutes after Press' opening tally when she flicked home a heavy pass from Beth Mead in the 19th minute.

The Lionesses came into Tuesday's match as 2-to-1 betting underdog to the United States, currently the world's top ranked team.

In the seven previous Women's World Cups, the United States has won three tournaments, finished second once and taken home third place three times.