Abby Wambach responded to USA’s defeat to Japan in the final of the FIFA Women’s World Cup Germany 2011™ by making a vow. “I’ll be back for more,” she said as she departed the scene that day, clearly dejected at not adding a winner’s medal to the adidas Silver Ball and adidas Bronze Boot she had collected.
The feted striker has been as good as her word, helping the Stars and Stripes battle their way back to another World Cup Final against the Japanese, an occasion on which the veteran hopes to land the one trophy that has eluded her so far.
The 35-year-old knows how it feels to beat the Nadeshiko, having helped US overcome them to claim gold in the final of the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament London 2012. A repeat of that achievement on Sunday and Wambach can set the seal on a brilliant career by winning the title that matters to her most.
Passionate and forthright, the USA team’s vice-captain spoke to FIFA.com about the keys to their run to the final and her unshakeable belief in victory.
FIFA.com: USA versus Japan: is this the final you dreamed about?
Abby Wambach: It’s going to be a very exciting game. To be honest, it’ll be great to play Japan because they’re a fantastic team. They play great football and they’ve scored some amazing goals in this competition. And when you look back to what happened in 2012 and 2011, then that makes it even more special. We’ve faced them in the last two big finals and now we’re fighting it out for another World Cup. When Sunday in Vancouver comes around I want to do my country, my people, my family and my team-mates proud. If there’s one thing this World Cup has taught us, it’s that you need an entire team to win it, and that’s what we’ve got.
In which way is the side different to the one we saw at Germany 2011 or London 2012?
We have a lot of faith in each other. Everyone has a role and a specific function to perform in helping us to win each game. I couldn’t be more proud of my team-mates, and not just the ones who are in the starting XI but also the players who’ve not seen much action so far. They’ve still been preparing hard and they urge everyone on the whole time. There are some players who’ve spent a lot of time on the pitch and you always need fresh legs out there. We’ve got players who are ready to do that, to come on and change the game. That’s what happened in the semi-final, when Kelley O’Hara came on and scored her first goal for the US national team – in a World Cup semi-final! It doesn’t get any better than that. It was a magical night.
You can have all the titles from all the championships you want, but none of them matter as much as the World Cup.
How did it feel to beat Germany in Montreal?
It was a great game. We have a huge amount of respect for Germany and every player of theirs is really talented. We knew it was going to be one big battle, that it was going to be epic, and that’s how it turned out, with penalties, players who came off the bench and made the difference, blood (literally), sweat and tears, and lots of excitement. Some players felt they’d let their team down, but their colleagues were there to pick them up and keep them going. It was an epic fairytale for us and a lesson on the importance of sticking together. If we carry on like that, we can win any game.
Third at USA 2003 and China 2007 and a runner-up at Germany 2011: has the time come for you to finally claim a winner’s medal?
It’s going to be a special occasion, but not just for me. The whole team has deserved to get there, the whole team together. That’s how we’ve got this far and that’s the culture and the values we want to keep showing for the rest of the tournament. We got very close the last time, and I hope we’ll be able to deal with some of the things we didn’t get right at the last few World Cups and that we’ll be at our very best in the final.
You’ve begun a few games on the bench. Are you hoping to get a starting place on Sunday and get the goals you need to become the competition’s all-time leading goalscorer?
All I want to do is win. I don’t care how and I don’t care what role I play. I don’t care if I score or not, or if Carli (Lloyd), Kelley O’Hara or Hope Solo scores. I honestly don’t care. All I want is for us to score one more goal than our opponents. That’s the only thing that matters to me, not individual records or anything like that. I just want the World Cup. You can have all the titles from all the championships you want, but none of them matter as much as the World Cup.
A lot of your team-mates have said they want to win this trophy for you, for everything you’ve given the national team.
Like I said, it’s really not about me. I’m proud of our team spirit, of the substitutes for making it even stronger and making the difference. I’m proud of the ones who play every minute of every game and who then recover in time and are raring to go for the next game. I’m proud of the coaching staff, who have to take very difficult decisions at crucial times, like choosing penalty takers, deciding who to take off, watching how the game’s going and giving the team the best chance to score. The game is getting so tactical that the decisions made by a coach can be decisive.
The women’s game has changed a lot since your first world finals in 2003.
It’s amazing to see how much this sport has grown. It’s unbelievable how much it’s developed over the course of my career. In that time, I’ve been in the same position Carli Lloyd is in now, scoring decisive goals for my team. That said, it’s also very interesting for me to be in the position I find myself now, closing out games and earning my coach’s trust to keep the team together and lead it, pushing it to score a late goal if we need one. If we do win the final, it’ll be a victory for the whole team, though we’ve still got one more game to win to become world champions.