Wambach, the U.S. women's national team star striker, captured the FIFA Women's World Player of the Year award, cementing her place at the top of the mountain after coming close in recent years. Wambach, the first American to win the world's top female honors since Mia Hamm in 2001 and 2002, had finished third in the voting in 2011, fourth in 2004 and 2006, and fifth in 2007 and 2010.
"I'm very, very surprised," Wambach told U.S. Soccer's official website. "Individual honors only happen if you have great teams and great people who have given you the chance to be here. Not only do I think Marta and Alex could have won, but many other players could have been here as well. Thanks to FIFA, thanks to U.S. Soccer and thanks to all the fans and my family for putting me in this position. I don't think of myself as the best player in the world, just a player who plays on the best team in the world."
Wambach, 32, had five goals at the Olympics to lead the United States to the gold medal and finished the year with 24 goals. She outlasted international teammate Alex Morgan, who was named U.S. Soccer's Female Athlete of the Year, and Marta, Brazil's five-time Player of the Year winner, to capture the honors. The award was presented by U.S. national team goalkeeper Hope Solo at the FIFA Ballon d'Or gala in Zurich.
"I’m so happy for Abby for all the work she has put into this team and into the sport," Morgan said. "She’s so completely deserving of this award, and I’m truly happy for her. She’s made such a huge mark on women’s soccer over the past decade. She’s an inspirational to not only the thousands of young girls around the country and world, but also to me."
Wambach's former coach and the current boss of the Swedish national team, Pia Sundhage, was honored as the top coach of the year in the female game, defeating Bruno Bini of France and Norio Sasaki of Japan. Sundhage stepped down from the U.S. post after winning the gold medal, with former Australia coach Tom Sermanni stepping into the vacated role.
"Pia's time as our head coach was one of the greatest in our program's history and she did a fantastic job with the team this year," U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati said. "The work that she and her staff did in guiding the team to wins in all six games at the Olympics was tremendous, and she is certainly deserving of this award."
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