When Wambach was on top of the world

Abby Wambach won FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year eight years ago
She became the second American to collect the award after Mia Hamm
“There haven’t been many times in my life where I’ve been completely speechless”

Her name will always be closely associated with women’s football, as she was undoubtedly among the finest at her craft. We are of course talking about Abby Wambach, who scored 184 international goals in 255 matches for the USA women’s national team – a record that was only surpassed by Canada’s Christine Sinclair in January 2020.

Wambach was crowned FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year 2012 on this day eight years ago, making her the second American to collect the award after Mia Hamm (2001 and 2002). In 2012 she triumphed with USA at the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament, netting five goals along the way to help steer the Stars & Stripes to victory.

“It’s fantastic,” a shellshocked Wambach said after receiving the award. “There haven’t been many times in my life where I’ve been completely speechless, but I’m really having trouble finding the right words. Honestly, when Hope [Solo] said my name, I thought she’d made a mistake. I was sure that Alex [Morgan] would win,” she added.

“Whenever you start a year, you start goal-setting, and 2012 was all about winning, not about getting redemption on Japan,” Wambach explained in an exclusive interview with FIFA.com. “It was about fulfilling a goal that all of us had in mind. The 2011 World Cup stirred up a fire inside all of us and we really held on to that.

“The common aim brought us together and we were able to succeed. I couldn’t be more happy and proud of my team because it wasn’t easy if you look at all the matches at the Olympics. We had to be on our game every single time we stepped on to the pitch. A little bit of luck helped at the end too.”

Almost three years later, and with a long-awaited FIFA Women’s World Cup™ winner’s medal in her possession, the six-time US Soccer Player of the Year retired from international football after winning her last cap for USA against China PR in New Orleans on 16 December 2015.

The striker scored 14 goals at four World Cup finals, leaving her tied for second place with Germany’s Birgit Prinz on the list of Women’s World Cup goalscorers. Only Brazilian legend Marta has found the target more often at the World Cup since adding to her tally at the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015™.

Nevertheless, Wambach’s leadership qualities are even more impressive and enduring than her statistics and records. “I have had the best life and it’s all because of the friendships that I’ve made,” she told Fox Soccer on the eve of the 2015 Women’s World Cup final. “I’ve literally grown up on this team – the good, the bad and ugly, my team-mates have helped me through it all. The biggest thing I need to express is my gratitude to have been able to play so long and to share the field with extraordinary women.”

Since hanging up her boots, Wambach has continued her relationship with football by inspiring others. She has taken part in several women’s conferences and has spoken at university graduation ceremonies, consistently calling for greater female empowerment and independence

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