Wambach: Canada 2015 Could Be Hardest World Cup!

Abby Wambach is the undisputed figurehead and talisman of the USA women’s national team. The 34-year-old has set and broken many a record since making her debut for the Stars & Stripes back in 2001 and remains a prolific attacking threat.

Her glittering career record includes 178 international goals, two Olympic gold medals and most recently another triumph at the prestigious Algarve Cup. However, there is one glaring omission in the Western New York Flash star’s personal honours collection, as she has yet to win the FIFA Women’s World Cup, a gap she is utterly determined to fill this year.


Wambach spoke exclusively to about the global showdown in Canada, wounds that have yet to heal and USA’s strengths.


2014 wasn’t easy for you, as you were sidelined with a knee injury and had to adapt to a change of coaching team. What’s your take on the year?

As an older player, you have to be very mindful when you put your foot on the gas pedal and when you take it off, but I am so ready for the year 2015. Yes, 2014 was difficult. I had an injury, our Algarve Cup didn’t go that well, and we had a change of coaching staff midway through the year. It was frustrating. Our standard is excellence and if we don’t perform as well as we should or could, I clock it up as a failure. The most important thing is that sometimes you have to go through hard times to get to the good stuff. That’s character building, it’s a quick reminder of how close we came to winning that World Cup in 2011. I have my silver medal in my closet and I see it very often. It’s a reminder of what I didn’t get. Sometimes when you fail it allows you the opportunity to grow more motivation and get more intense about your training. When you come to the point in time we’ve reached now, you can really go for it, play and practise as hard as you possibly can to be top of the podium at the end of the summer.


What are your impressions of working with Jill Ellis?

Jill Ellis has been around the game her whole life. Her parents are from England and she and her brother came over as young children. They’ve been dedicated to this sport their entire lives. Jill has been in the national team as an assistant for many years and was a head coach for many years. She knows football, she knows how to play the game and how she wants her team to play. It’s really important that our young players understand that she has a plan. Her plan isn’t to play 11 players for 90 minutes for a full seven games. Her plan is to develop some of the younger players so they come in and make positive changes and differences in a game. That’s different to a lot of other coaches we had in the past. I think that’s what it’s going to take to get through seven games and reach the final.


How do you feel your physique is holding up as you get to your mid-30s? What is your take as it seems that you’re still doing pretty well?

2014 was physically a tough year because I injured my knee, and you know how that goes with your emotions and the mentality. You ask yourself: will I ever be back playing as well as I used to? Right now I feel 100 per cent fit, healthy and excited. To win a World Cup we all have to sacrifice everything possible so we end up one day standing on top of that podium.


Has your playing style changed as the years have gone by?

It’s changed, for sure. When I was 25 years old I was just running around, getting into tackles and maybe being a little bit reckless. I’m a little bit older now, a little more mindful of how many tackles I get into and how many miles I put on my legs during training sessions. The most important thing is being 100 per cent fit and healthy. The other part of it is that you get these younger players who can cover the field like I used to. You have to figure out how to play alongside them to make them successful. When Alex Morgan came on the scene we developed such a great connection. She’s able to run in ways I have never been able to run. It’s very difficult for teams to defend against that great connection and chemistry because it gives us such a powerful presence up front.


You seem simply to follow your instincts on the field of play. Would you agree with that assessment?

I think I do play instinctively. I play how I feel, according to what I see and what I think. It’s about the feel, connecting with your team-mates, your relationship with your centre-back, your forwards, your midfield line and your wing players. If you can find those connections and make them solid, knowing what somebody else is going to do before they do it, you’ve got a defence beaten.


Does this US team have what it takes to win the World Cup this summer?

We absolutely have what it takes, but it’s going to be the hardest World Cup ever. There are more teams, more games and longer travel. Canada is a huge country. It’s going to be difficult, no matter what team you are, whether you’re number one in the world or the tenth-placed team in the world. To win a championship you have to have a little bit of luck on your side.


Tell us a little bit about the US team. Who should we watch for at this World Cup?

We have a lot of great up-and-coming players like Alex Morgan, Sydney Leroux or Christen Press. I’m very focused on our forward line. I’m the older player, kind of the mother, so to speak. I’m trying to get them all as confident as possible. There will be games where maybe one or two of us are sitting on the bench. Tactically it’s going to be important for Jill and her coaching staff to do that to save legs. Hopefully we can do that so that once we get to the crucial matches we have players with fresh legs who can go on and not only win games by one or two goals, but decisively. That’s part of our strength.


You face Sweden and your former coach Pia Sundhage in the group stage. You know each other well, so will it be a special match?

It’s going to be a normal game actually. We try to normalise it as much as possible. Pia knows all of us players inside-out and backwards. But our system, our coaching and the way we’re going to play is different. And Pia has a team she’s going to be worrying about, so she won’t worry about us too much. She doesn’t need anybody to scout us – she knows us as personalities on the field. It’s always really fun. If you beat a team Pia is coaching you’ve done a good job. She’s one of the best coaches I’ve ever had and I respect her. But in that specific game, I hope we beat her.


Who will be the teams to beat at the World Cup?

It’s hard to say. Brazil are very dynamic and dangerous. Obviously I like the chances of Germany, Japan and Sweden doing well and getting far at the tournament. France as well. There are so many options, so many great teams. On any given day anybody can win. It’s going to be the details, the set-pieces, and the tactics. It’s going to be so difficult to win this World Cup. But man, am I up for the challenge.

About the author

Ihesiulo Grace

Leave a Comment