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11 Questions with Abby Wambach

In 2003, Abby Wambach was a young forward trying to earn her chops on the world’s stage. She did that and more, leading the USA in scoring at the 2003 FIFA Women’s World Cup, including the lone goal in the quarterfinal match that knocked Norway out of the tournament. Now, Wambach is a team leader and one of the best forwards in the world with 74 goals in 93 games. Wambach took some time out from preparing for the USA’s upcoming match against Japan (7 p.m. PT live on’s MatchACCESS) to answer 11 questions for, ranging from her goal scoring prowess, to the upcoming Women’s World Cup, to her goal scoring celebrations. You are two goals away from moving into the top five of all-time scorers alongside some of the U.S. legends. What does that achievement mean to you?

Abby Wambach: “To be honest, I had no idea I was even close to that, but whether I get those two goals is up to my teammates, who always put perfect balls to my head or feet. Still, being grouped among the pioneers, the household names of this sport, is and always will be an honor.” You have scored 46 percent of your goals with your head. What does that percentage signify to you?

AW: “For me, what sports are about is using all the attributes that you have to your advantage. My height is something that is very difficult to deal with as a defender. My ability to read the flight of the ball is also good and the third thing is the competitiveness and the courage it takes to go in on raging goalkeepers and hard-nosed defenders. It takes a specific type of player to enjoy scoring goals with your head and I am definitely one of them.” You are a player who really focuses on being primed and tuned just right, mentally and physically heading into a world championship. Are you where you want to be right now, less than two months before the start of the tournament?

AW: “I am exactly where I want to be, less than two months out. It’s kind of the grind right now, what I like to call the calm before the storm. As long as we can all get through this part healthy and still excited about the journey we will all embark on September 11 against North Korea, we have a really good shot at winning the Women’s World Cup. We just need to keep reminding ourselves that all but four players on this team don’t have a Women’s World Cup championship under their belt. We still have a lot more work to do and winning a World Cup is not an easy thing to accomplish. From my experience at the Olympics in 2004, a lot of luck is involved and hopefully that luck will be swinging our way.” As part of your focus for a world championship, you generally give up a few of your favorite foods and drinks as sort of a body purifying thing. What do you miss most?

AW: “I don’t think I am missing anything this time. I went through it in 2004 (before the Olympics), so I know that goodness comes from really sacrificing to put your body in the place where it needs to be. I am going to go into this tournament a little heavier than I did in 2004, so I am going to rely on a bit more on that mass to get me through this longer tournament.” Some would consider you a “target forward” but you like to slide out to the wings and attack from there as well. Can you talk about that part of your game?

AW: “A lot of times I think it’s really important leading up to China that our defenders, midfielders and forwards, all feel confident playing most of the positions in our line. I think being a vocal player gives our defenders and midfielders a different look in that I can give them an option to play it outside. I’m not necessarily great on the flanks, but I can play-make in some capacity, and that gives us a different look and it makes me a more versatile player as well.” To no one’s surprise, you are the first on the team to own the new iPhone. Give us your review?

AW: “All the thanks has to go to Nike, who sent me the iPhone as a generous gift. I wish I had known that, because I ordered two before I got it, but the iPhone is the best of all worlds for me. It’s all things that I love and use on a daily basis in one machine. I just think it’s super cool. When you are in constant motion like myself, I like to have the most up to date things that will make my travel and time away from home more comfortable. The iPhone has done, and will continue to do, just that.” Brazil was pretty merciless in their tackling of you in the match at Giants Stadium a few weeks ago. You were fouled, hard, seven times and had at least three fouls go uncalled. How do you cope with that kind of abuse?

AW: “Quite frankly, thinking about that game, I am puzzled about how to deal with it. It does gets me fired up and excited about the World Cup because we potentially could see Brazil, and the fact that I didn’t retaliate and that I did keep my cool, shows that it doesn’t matter what you do to me, I am still going to keep trying to score and play well.” You have one Women’s World Cup under your belt. With 12 first-timers on this roster, can you give some insight into what they might be thinking going into their first Women’s World Cup?

AW: “I think the first-timers are probably a little nervous, very exited, but a little unsure about how things will go and how things will feel. A World Cup environment is very different from friendly matches. It’s do or die, even in the first round. You have to get points to move on, or the previous two years of training will be a failure. We need to pump the confidence of the new players and get them ready, which I think they are, then we’ll kick off the first match of the tournament and see where we are. You can’t give anyone experience, you just have to go out and get it.” You went to Rwanda and Uganda in 2005 on behalf of the humanitarian organization “Right to Play.” Do you have any idea when you might go back to Africa again?

AW: “Ironically, (teammate) Heather O’Reilly just asked me a week ago if we get some time post-World Cup, if things go well, if I’d like to go back and continue to share our experiences and our soccer in Africa. It would be great to get back there because I’ve wanted to go back ever since I left.” There could be as many as five starters on the field for the USA in the first match against North Korea who have never played in a Women’s World Cup. What would be your advice to them at the opening whistle?

AW: “To think about the past few years and use that as experience that you will need to take you into these first few moments that will be nerve-wracking and adrenaline will be pumping. Every person on the field or the bench will be behind them and we will make it through and figure it out together. I’m tall. They can lean on me.” You have ramped up your goal celebrations of late. Has it been a concerted effort or just the confluence of circumstances around the goals recently?

AW: “Honestly, it has been an effort, but sometimes it’s more of relief in the way it feels after the ball goes in the net. My best friend, Ari, told me that my celebrations are worthless. He said that I shouldn’t be as good as I am, or score as many goals as I do because I don’t celebrate them properly. So I am trying to celebrate more to show him that my celebrations are worthy of the goals and that no matter what type of celebration, good and bad, they still count the same. Of course, it’s always fun to celebrate.”