Abby Wambach long ago acquired the status of figurehead and icon in North American women's football, but the 29-year-old striker has yet to realise her greatest dream of winning the FIFA Women's World Cup. After her USA finished third in both 2003 and 2007, the biggest triumph of her career to date remains gold at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.
Wambach, whose 100 goals in 130 appearances for her country make her one of the five all-time top scorers for the USA, regards the friendly meeting with world and European champions Germany in Augsburg on 29 October as a welcome prelude to her team's quest for glory in 2011. Following a national squad training camp in Carson, California, Wambach spoke about the upcoming showdown against the Germans, and her dream of lifting the FIFA Women's World Cup trophy.
FIFA.com: What are the differences in the way the women's game's developed in the USA and Germany in recent years?
Abby Wambach: We staged the Women's World Cup for the second time in 2003, which was a huge boost in developing women's football in the US. We also had the WUSA pro league, although it was only short-lived in the end. Germany have made continuous progress since winning the World Cup for the first time in 2003. I think you could say they've overtaken us.
You made your international debut in September 2001 against Germany. You also have good friends in Germany, including Steffi Jones. What does the forthcoming friendly mean to you?
The game in Augsburg is a very special one for me personally, not least because it's the first time I'll be facing Germany on their turf. There's great mutual respect. Both teams really want to win the World Cup. The game against Germany will be a taste of 2011, especially as we'll be playing in front of a sell-out crowd at a World Cup stadium.
The USA are the only nation with a positive overall record against Germany: you've won 16 of the 25 meetings between the teams. What's the secret of your success?
It's very simple: to beat Germany, you need a perfect performance. Germany have outstanding individuals, Birgit Prinz for example, who can win a match on their own at any time. I think Kerstin Garefrakes is a great player too. I've not forgotten Garefrakes' headed goal against us in the 2003 World Cup semi-final. She stamped her presence all over that game, and took us by surprise from a corner.
Are you relieved you don't have to face Steffi Jones this time?
I don't think coming face-to-face with Steffi was ever exactly a pleasure for any striker in the world. If I'm not very much mistaken, I don't think I ever scored against a team Steffi was playing in. It was always hard against her, but I have to say, always fair. After every challenge, we always checked we were both OK. I was really thrilled when Steffi became my team-mate at Washington Freedom. Her passion made her a driving force in the team. Last summer, I met her in her function as OC President for the first time in Washington. I could see immediately she was going about the job with the same passion and warmth she showed in her playing days.
Who are the favourites for the FIFA Women's World Cup 2011?
The USA, Germany and Brazil are the top contenders, but you can't write off Japan. Our coach, Pia Sundhage, followed the EURO in Finland and was impressed by the progress some of the teams have made. It'll be an exciting World Cup in 2011.
What are your expectations of the World Cup?
The World Cup will benefit from the excellent standing of the women's game in Germany. I find it very interesting the way the Germans have developed a passion for women's football. The women's game in Germany has a dedicated following nowadays, which isn't the case in the USA. Our crowds show up because it's an event. It makes a real difference when you play in front of women's football enthusiasts. The World Cup in Germany is our main target, and the work we get through at club and national team level is focused on 2011. We intend to be on peak form
And what can we expect from the USA?
Pia Sundhage always tells us to go for our opponents' goal. She wants to see us attacking the whole time, although we sometimes have to remain patient and wait for the gaps to appear. We're an attacking team with the right blend of youth and experience.