Abby Wambach (USA)
Born: 2 June 1980, Rochester, New York, USA
256 international caps, 184 goals
USA have been at the upper echelon of the women’s game since the very first FIFA Women’s World Cup in 1991, and you would be hard pressed to find a player that embodies the Stars and Stripes’ competitiveness more than Abby Wambach. The two-time Olympic gold medallist, 2012 FIFA Women’s Player of the Year and 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup winner was a leader on and off the pitch.
Wambach left nothing in the tank after every match she played, and no other moment illustrates her desire and will to win than her last-gasp goal against Brazil at the 2011 Women’s World Cup in Germany.
Wambach finished her career as the all-time leading goalscorer for USA with an astonishing 184 goals. With 14 goals scored throughout her four tournament appearances, Wambach is joint-second all-time, along with Germany's Birgit Prinz, for most goals scored by a single player at the world finals - Brazil's Marta jumped to the top at Canada 2015.
More impressive and long-lasting than her statistics and records is Wambach's leadership qualities: “I have had the best life and it's all in total because of the friendships that I've made" she told Fox Soccer in 2015 on the eve of the Women's World Cup final. "I've literally grown up on this team - the good, 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, to share the field with extraordinary women."
Wambach has continued her relationship with football by inspiring others, where she has taken part in several women's conferences and speaking at university graduation ceremonies, calling for more female empowerment and independence.
FIFA Women's World Cup winner (2015)
Women's Olympic Football Tournament gold medallist (2004, 2012)
FIFA World Player of the Year (2012)
U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year (2003, 2004, 2007, 2010, 2011, 2013)
"After '99, it being the next World Cup in the US, regardless of circumstances, I was the one piece that was different from '99," Wambach recalled when speaking about her debut Women's World Cup in 2003 when USA lost to Germany in the semi-finals. "That World Cup ended up being a good thing, as that failure definitely shaped the success of my career later on. I remember [the German players] running around so happy for so long. She [USA coach April Heinrichs] saw me watching. She said, 'Come on, let's go inside,' and I said, 'No, I want to remember this'."
"These younger players have so much to look forward to," Wambach said after winning the 2015 Women's World Cup, 11 years and 287 days after first appearing at the world finals. "The team is in their hands now. I’m OK walking away now. I know everyone wanted to get me a goal. It’s probably why we didn’t score! I’m so honoured and blessed to have been a part of this team for so many years."