FIFA Women's World Cup USA 2003

FIFA Women's World Cup USA 2003

7 June - 7 July

FIFA Women's World Cup 2003™

Wambach towers in U.S. victory

One thing has been missing in the storied international history of Norway vs. the United States - Abby Wambach.

The towering American striker has played in just two of the 37 meetings between the two sides. Her first came on July 1, 2001, in Minnesota. Her second was Wednesday night in Foxboro, Massachusetts, and it is one she will remember for a long time.

"Just to say that I started against Norway in a Women's World Cup quarter-final and scored the winning goal is a dream come true," Wambach said after the U.S. defeated Norway 1-0 to advance to the semi-finals.

"I am just happy that the coaches believed in me and the veterans believed in me so that I could get this chance."

Her 24th-minute header from close range gave the Americans the victory in another in a long line of epic struggles between the two nations. Wambach was an offensive menace and a dominating aerial presence for the Americans all night.

"She was everywhere," said U.S. captain Julie Foudy. "She was such a presence. You'd think that our "biggins", as we call them, would tire out, but she doesn't. She's out there motoring, working very hard. Her work rate and ability to go 90 minutes is amazing. And she has people hanging on her and trying to hold her down. It takes a lot of energy to do what she does."

U.S. head coach April Heinrichs used her tallest line-up, starting "biggins" Wambach and Cindy Parlow to combat Norway's ability to win balls in the air.

"I said to Abby after the game that it was the best game of her life," said Heinrichs. "She did it for 90 minutes. She high-pressured when we needed her to, she snuffed some of the long balls that they were trying to serve late in the game, she pressured players to serve the ball before they were ready to serve and just worked her rear end. But there is more left in her."

Wambach was most effective in the penalty area. She announced her presence in the sixth minute by looping a soft header over Norway goalkeeper Bente Nordby that rang off the crossbar. The Norwegians drew three yellow cards for their tight marking of the American, and Wambach drew the foul that led to Mia Hamm's penalty kick attempt. Although Nordby saved the shot, Wambach carried an undeniable presence on the pitch.

"Wambach is very strong in the air and strong in the box," said Norway head coach Age Steen. "We tried to take her out in the box but it was very difficult to stop her."

Her performance epitomised the type of undying, relentless work rate that won her a spot in the team in the first place. Wambach said facing an opponent like Norway, a strong physical team that likes to play the ball in the air, suits her just fine.

"These are the types of games that play into my hands," said Wambach. "If I come off the field with no grass stains, or no mud on my shirt I feel like I haven't done anything. I was pretty happy that I had to change my shirt at halftime because it was so dirty."

Her effort Wednesday drew comparisons to women's football legend Michelle Akers.

"It's one of the biggest compliments you have get to be compared to that woman," said Wambach. "If I can emulate her by even a fraction, it would be a great honour."