Football writer, Nancy Frostick, looks at the top 5 moments from Abby Wambach’s career.
New Orleans Superdome witnessed history last week as the US Women’s National Soccer Team lost 0-1 to China, ending a remarkable 104-match unbeaten home streak and signalling the end of Abby Wambach’s incredible career. Wambach did not score on her 255th and final appearance for America, she will, however, be remembered as one of the greatest players of all time, scoring 184 international goals against 33 different countries. Her international goal scoring tally is the best in the history of both men’s and women’s football, and came during a fifteen-year international career that saw her lift the World Cup last summer in Canada.
5) International debut (2001) – Wambach made her debut at the age of 21 against Germany after an impressive college career at the University of Florida. Although she did not score until 2002 against Finland, Wambach’s debut appearance as a substitution marked the culmination of much admiration for her playing abilities. Having played for the US Youth Soccer Team and breaking numerous college records for goals scored, assists and hat-tricks, her debut really marked her move to a bigger stage and the start of her fantastic international career.
4) Olympic gold medallist (2004) – In Athens in 2004, Wambach won her first of two Olympic gold medals with a trademark extra-time headed goal in the final against Brazil. She scored four goals during the event, a first for an American player, and was awarded US player of the year for her performances. Despite missing the last group match because of suspension, Wambach had played a direct role in four of the six goals the USA scored in the group stages, and she followed this with the winning goal in the quarter-finals against Japan. The tournament marked the end of the international careers of significant players Mia Hamm, Joy Fawcett and Julie Foudy, and the start of Wambach’s period of dominance.
3) Goals record – surpassing Mia Hamm (2013) – In an exhibition match against South Korea, Wambach surpassed her idol Mia Hamm’s record for international career goals. Hamm is widely recognised as one of the best women’s players of all time, and had held the record with 158 international goals. Wambach scored four times in the first half to take her total to 160, with the last goal headed in from a corner. Aerial prowess has been one of the defining features of Wambach’s style, with headed goals making up 77 of her 184 for the USA. Overtaking Hamm has ensured Abby Wambach will remain in the history books for a long time to come.
2) Ballon D’Or winner (2013) – Wambach edged out her only real rivals for the Ballon D’Or in recent years, USA team-mate Alex Morgan and Brazilian Marta to win in 2013. After scoring five times at the London 2012 Olympics where the USA won gold again, Wambach became the first American player since Mia Hamm to win the Ballon D’Or. Despite her remarkable career and numerous nominations, she has only won the award once. The 2012/13 season really was the pinnacle of Wambach’s career, both on in terms of individual and team achievements.
1) World Cup winner (2015) – After heartbreak in the final in 2011 against Japan, the only title Wambach was yet to clinch was the World Cup. Although she was mainly used as a substitute, her contributions to the team enabled the USA to reach the final where they breezed past Japan 5-2. Despite Carli Lloyd being the star of the final, Wambach’s value as a squad member in her last tournament was immeasurable. In an interview after the match she stated; “I would give up all my individual awards for what we just did tonight and it’s the truth”. Winning the World Cup has ensured Wambach was able to fulfil her career goals, and leave her national team on a high at the top of women’s international football.