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Cal’s Alex Morgan, U.S. Women Headed To World Cup

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Alex Morgan, center, reacts with teammates after she scoring during their Women's World Cup 2011 soccer first leg play off match against Italy. (AP)

Alex Morgan, center, reacts with teammates after she scoring during their Women’s World Cup 2011 soccer first leg play off match against Italy. (AP)

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. (CBS / AP) — The United States team, which includes Cal’s Alex Morgan, claimed the last spot in the 2011 women’s World Cup soccer tournament when they defeated Italy 1-0 on Saturday.

A first-half goal by Amy Rodriguez helped the Americans win the playoff series with Italy 2-0 on aggregate to join Australia and the other 14 teams in the World Cup to be played from June 26 to July 17 in Germany.

The top-ranked Americans were in danger of missing the tournament they’ve won twice after a stunning upset loss to Mexico in the semi-finals of regional qualifying.

It was just their second loss since the 2007 World Cup, and first since the opening game of the Beijing Olympics, which the Americans went on to win.

“Obviously this was a little different road than we had expected,” forward Abby Wambach told the crowd on Saturday. “But this team has resilience. We never gave up. We never lost belief in ourselves.”

“I think the country always thinks, ‘Oh, the US always goes, they’re so good,”‘ Julie Foudy, part of the pioneering squad that won the 1991 and 1999 World Cups, said before the game. “When we stumble, they don’t realize the rest of the world is getting much better.”

Forced to beat Costa Rica in the regional third-place game and given a second chance with a playoff against the Azzurre, Europe’s fifth-place team, the Americans – just barely – showed why they have been at the top of the game for two decades now.

(Copyright © 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. and The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

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