At the 72nd minute of Wednesday night’s game, in front of a crowd of more than 32,000 people in New Orleans, Abby Wambach tossed her cleats toward the bench and walked away from the field for the final time.
The 35-year-old soccer champion played her final game for the United States Women’s National Team on Wednesday night in a 1-0 loss against China. This was Wambach’s final game after announcing her retirement back in October.
While many of her competitors and fans know Wambach for her fierce play, she admitted that the emotions began to unravel for her in the locker room after the game.
Earlier on Wednesday, Wambach sent out a tweet that resonates well with her competitive personality.
The tweet was deleted shortly afterward when Wambach disabled her Twitter account.
Since her career first began, Wambach has been no stranger to the national spotlight. In 1998, as a freshman at the University of Florida, she guided the program’s soccer team to its first and only national championship. During her four years of collegiate play she recorded 96 goals (most in UF history), was named SEC Player of the Year twice, named first-team All-American three times and led the Gators back to the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament during her senior year in 2001.
Wambach joined the Women’s National Team in 2001. During her 15-year career with the team she scored 184 goals, the most by any man or woman in international soccer history. She also captured two Olympic gold medals in the 2004 and 2012 Summer Olympic games. In 2012 she was named FIFA Women’s Player of the Year for the first and only time in her career.
Despite leading the United States to three consecutive top three finishes in the World Cup and winning the Silver Shoe (second highest tournament scorer) between 2003 and 2011, a World Cup championship was the biggest achievement missing from Wambach’s stellar resume.
Before the start of the 2015 World Cup, Wambach announced that this would be her final time competing in this global tournment. While not as dominant as she was early in her career, Wambach played a pivotal role for the U.S. She scored the lone goal in their 1-0 victory over Nigeria in the group stage, the 183rd goal of her international career.
The win propelled her and the rest of her teammates into the group of 16, shutting out the rest of their competition en route to a rematch with Japan in the championship round. Avoiding a repeat failure from 2011, Wambach finally captured her first World Cup championship as the U.S. defeated Japan 5-2.
While her team may have lost a friendly game on Wednesday night, the former Gator and international star will always be remembered as a champion, both on and off the field. A champion that will not be forgotten anytime soon.