Abby Wambach is once again on top of the world. After tasting gold at last year’s Women’s Olympic Football Tournament in London, and being crowned FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year, the USA forward has now usurped Mia Hamm as the globe’s greatest international goalscorer.
A remarkable a first-half four-goal haul in a 5-0 win over Korea Republic saw Wambach set a new landmark amid joyous scenes and a boisterous crowd at Red Bull Arena in New Jersey on Thursday.
All the more remarkable was that Wambach played just 60 minutes before being substituted with, perhaps significantly, rising star Christen Press taking her place at the point of the attack.
The 33-year-old Wambach hit a treble inside the opening half-hour, before adding to her tally just before the break. Lauren Cheney scored USA’s fifth and final goal midway through the second half.
"It's surreal to begin with," Wambach said. "The whole first half was crazy. My team-mates were trying to get me those goals. It was clear. I'm so thankful."
It's surreal to begin with. The whole first half was crazy. My team-mates were trying to get me those goals. I'm so thankful.
The record-setting 159th goal for Wambach came in the 29th minute, when Megan Rapinoe fired a corner kick into the area and Wambach nodded home a header.
Wambach hugged Rapinoe in celebration and was then mobbed by her joyous team-mates as parents Pete and Judy Wambach watched from the stands.
"They were all about trying to get me goals," Wambach said. "I want to thank them. We made a lot of things happen. We attacked in many different ways."
Hamm, who retired nine years ago, was not at the match but issued a statement saying, "just watching those four goals, that's what she is all about. She fights for the ball, she's courageous and she never gives up.
"From being her team-mate early in her career, I know all she ever wanted to do was win, and she continues to do that".
Wambach was a teenager on the USA U-16 squad when she first saw Hamm practicing with the national team. "Ever since that day, this is what I wanted to do," Wambach said.
But Wambach added that she was relieved to have her chase of Hamm's mark finished. "As a competitor, you want to be done with being second," she said. "This team is too good to be talking about just one player. I'm glad it's over with."
The iconic Hamm played 275 games for the Stars and Stripes hitting 158 goals over a decorated 17 year career, with Wambach having now played 206 matches for her 160 goals, including a remarkable 69 headed goals.
Since debuting in 2001, Wambach has featured in three FIFA Women's World Cup™ and two Olympic Games, and in January was named the world’s best for the first time.
USA defeated Korea Republic 4-1 in the opening game of the two-match series in Foxborough on Saturday, leaving the team unbeaten in their nine matches since new coach Tom Sermanni took the reins in January.