As USA were en route from their training base in Austria to Dresden, the location for their first game in the FIFA Women’s World Cup against Korea DPR, Abby Wambach, scorer of over 100 goals for the US women’s national team was in determined mood.
After two third place finishes at the FIFA Women’s World Cups of 2003 and 2007, the magicJack striker is hoping that it will be third time lucky at Germany 2011.
FIFA.com: How you feeling at the moment?
Abby Wambach: I would say I'm in the best shape I've been in for the past two years. I've been suffering with an Achilles tendon problem in the past year, but that's gone now, so I'm thrilled that everything has healed at the right time and I'm confident I can perform my best at this World Cup. So I'm fully fit, ready to go and excited about the tournament beginning. I think everybody in our team feels the same way.
Having missed out on a gold medal at the 2008 Olympics and a major footballing tournament, does this give you a renewed sense of energy and purpose?
Definitely. You get a greater sense of perspective when you're not allowed to do the things you love. It helps the fire burn a little bit brighter. I can tell you that even though we won the gold medal in China, not being on the field has given me an added edge this time around. I'm looking forward to be on the field even more. There's only one player in our squad that's been a world champion before, but every single member of the squad wants to be one too. We know it's not going to be easy, but it's what we have in mind.
This is going to be your first major tournament under Pia Sundhage. She has changed the team's style of play and your role in particular. How hard has it been for you to adapt?
It hasn't been easy. The style of play we used to have was direct. In 2007 the message was 'get the ball up top 'and so I was involved in the play a lot more. When Pia came in she had to have many conversations with me because I had to learn to be more patient. She saw that my frustration was getting to breaking point and she really tried to help me in that regard, because she wants us to play a more European style of play, with a patient build-up. I think it's better for the team. We all want to play good-looking soccer. We don't want to just win games, we want to win beautifully. That's something which Pia has brought to the table and that's something which has been a great thing for me to learn.
Results-wise, the preparations for the tournament haven't been as successful as people might have expected. You qualified via the play-offs, and you recently lost to England and Norway in friendly matches...
Preparation for this tournament has definitely been a factor for some of those losses, but the world has been getting better and things are not like they used to be. The days of USA strolling into every game and winning are over. Games are much more taxing, there’s so much more tactics involved and you have to play well to win every game at this level. We know that if we don't play well in this first round, we might be going home. However, if we can put in a full 90 minute performances without any lapses in concentration, we are going to be a really difficult team to beat. All of the losses we've suffered over the past 12 months have given us things to work on and I think it has helped us to improve in the long run.
Would you say that your group, Group C, is the toughest out of the four groups in this competition?
Well, it's certainly not the easiest. Korea DPR will be difficult because they are somewhat of an unknown quantity. Colombia's youth teams have fared so well at FIFA tournaments, so we can't overlook them and we know all about Sweden's capabilities. We can't afford to drop points in this group.
Korea DPR the first opponents in Dresden on Tuesday and you had quite an eventful match against them four years ago didn't you?
You could say that. I have a lovely scar on the back of my head from that game to prove it. I scored to give us the lead, but then I was head-butted going up for a corner and I had to go off the field to get stitched up. When I came back on the pitch we were getting beaten 2-1, the Koreans had taken advantage of our numerical disadvantage. But we equalised and took a point out of a game which was really, really important for us. I think that this time around is we can expect another close game. We just need to take the chances that we create and hopefully I can stay on the pitch this time.
Who would you say are the favourites to win this FIFA Women's World Cup?
Germany, obviously, being the home team and having home-field advantage are probably the favourites to win. However, we want to beat them on the own soil. In order to do that, we need to come through a tough group stage. Our focus is on Korea DPR right now, then Colombia and Sweden. We'll see what happens after that.