The 2015 Women’s World Cup will likely be the last major international tournament for Abby Wambach. The hero throughout the last decade of American women’s soccer is getting up there in age (she will be 35 when the World Cup starts) and it seems that fatigue has finally caught up with her. Wambach took her latest club season with the Western New York Flash off to prepare for this World Cup and while her age may be growing by the day, so too is her hunger. The World Cup is the only major trophy that Wambach is yet to win, and with 2015 being her last shot at world soccer’s highest honor Abby has more desire than ever.
Following her miracle goal against Brazil in 2011, Wambach became a household name. Her goal found it’s way on highlight shows across the nation and put a spotlight on women’s soccer in the United States for the first time since 1999. However, disappointment in the final against Japan, Wambach left another World Cup without a trophy. Despite her failure, Wambach’s superstardom from that goal brought her the adoration of not just American soccer fans, but American society as a whole.
This year, Wambach was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people, something Abby said she never could have imagined in her wildest dreams. She has used her stardom for the betterment of female athletes, famously criticizing then FIFA President Sepp Blatter for his blatant sexism, despite the fact that she won the Women’s Balon d’Or from Blatter’s organization. She has been vocal in her support for the LGBT community, female athletes, and general acceptance of all people throughout the globe. For many, Abby Wambach is a hero.
Despite her achievements both on and off the field, Abby Wambach is hardly satisfied. Wambach has scored 184 international goals, more than 20 more than any other soccer player, male or female, yet she doesn’t like to talk about it. In a recent interview with Sports Illustrated, she made clear that she is more motivated by her failures than her successes. She remembers 2003, when the player she marked against Germany scored the header that ultimately sent the U.S. home. She remembers the 4-0 drubbing her team took against Brazil in 2007, the lowest point in USWNT history. She remembers the 2011 World Cup, not as the tournament where she scored a stoppage time goal that went viral, but instead as the tournament where her side surrendered two leads to Japan and ultimately lost to an underdog side on penalties.
For Abby Wambach, the World Cup has been a place of failure, and that’s motivating.
When this World Cup is over, whether the USWNT win or lose, Abby Wambach can certainly be proud of her achievements. She is undoubtedly the best international soccer player the world has ever seen and has a long life ahead of her filled with reforming society, soccer or otherwise, as her powerful persona has clearly resonated not just with the United States, but also the world.
However, as she looks towards her fourth and final World Cup, Abby is focused on her failures far more than her successes. She is motivated to add the final piece to her decorated career, and will settle for nothing less than victory when the United States takes the field in Canada. While her days as an international striker are numbered and the world will look on as a new crop of USWNT stars takes the stage, Abby Wambach certainly has one last stand left in her. USWNT team fans can rest easy knowing that their star player is putting her failures in the rearview mirror, leaving her very, very motivated.