Will the fourth time be a charm? Former Florida Gators striker Abby Wambach certainly hopes so as she leads the U.S. Women’s National Team into its first game of the 2015 Women’s World Cup in Canada.
Wambach, the all-time international goal scorer (male or female) with 182 goals in 242 appearances, is in her 15th year as a national team member and will start her fourth World Cup with the Americans on Monday at 7:30 p.m. as the United States takes on Australia in the start of group stage competition.
Though she has won two Olympic gold medals with the Americans (the United States has actually won three straight from 2004-12 but Wambach did not participate in the 2008 games after breaking her leg in a friendly), the World Cup trophy has eluded Wambach with the U.S. not bringing one home since 1999.
“I want to finish my career off on a high note, play in this World Cup and bring home the World Cup to the United States,” she told the gathered media this week. “That would be absolutely a dream come true and a perfect way to end a career.”
Over the last three events, the Americans have won a pair of third place games over Canada (2003) and Norway (2007) before falling in the finals to Japan (2011). The United States is 13-1-4 in World Cup play with Wambach, the 2011 Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year and 2012 FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year, on the roster. She even won the Bronze Boot and Silver Ball in 2011. However, to this point, her presence, energy and effort have not been enough to get the job done.
This is Wambach’s final opportunity. The 35-year-old, who chose not to play league soccer this season, will likely find herself fit enough to line up with the Americans in the 2016 Rio Olympics. However, expecting her to do so again at the age of 39 in the 2019 Women’s World Cup would be a tough ask.
Age will not be a determining factor for Wambach this summer, not for someone who has seen 42.3 percent of her international goals come on her signature flying headers. She plans to play major minutes over the next 30 days, which she hopes results in her stepping on the pitch seven times, including in the World Cup final.
Wambach is already impressing. During a three-game tour to warm up the Americans for World Cup action, Wambach started two games and scored 50 percent (four of eight) of the United States’ goals.
A national title at Florida, two Olympic gold medals, multiple mind-boggling highlights from the 2011 World Cup and her honor as best player in the world for 2012 all take a back seat over the next month as Wambach remains focused on the only goal she has been unable to attain during her professional career: bringing the World Cup trophy back to the United States of America.
Related Reading: Sports Illustrated – Abby’s Road: Wambach’s motivation, quest for elusive World Cup glory