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FERD'S WORDS | 2011 WOMEN'S WORLD CUP


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Wambach excels as spiritual leader for U.S.

By Ferd Lewis

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 01:53 a.m. HST, Jul 14, 2011


Where there is Abby Wambach, there is a will and a way.

If the United States succeeds in winning its first Women's World Cup in 12 years Sunday, it will be because Wambach has willed it there.

If it gets past Japan to win the event a record third time, it will have been delivered by the force of her personality as much as her trademark headers.

Wambach, the forward who stridently proclaimed before the semifinal match with France that "defeat is not an option," made sure of it with a soaring, dramatic tie-breaking header into the goal 79 minutes into the eventual 3-1 triumph Wednesday in Germany.

It was her third goal in a week and came on the heels of a similar header in the final seconds of extra time to tie the match and set the stage for an eventual victory over Brazil in the quarterfinals.

If Hope Solo is the poster player for the U.S., Alex Morgan the emerging star and Megan Rapinoe the super sub, then it is the 31-year-old Wambach who is the spiritual sparkplug of America's Team as much in deed as word.

"It's a question of will, of wanting it more than the others," Wambach had said earlier in the week. "I can tell you that not one person in our staff or team is going to give up."

Certainly not if they followed her example. Almost three years to the day from when she broke her leg in a match that cost her an appearance in the Beijing Olympics, Wambach has come back on a mission to deliver the U.S. to the title. Neither a case of worsening months-long Achilles' tendinitis or tight defense by the French could deny her U.S. record-tying 12th goal.

Until Wambach had taken the corner kick from Lauren Cheney and risen above goalkeeper Berangere Sapowicz to bang it around the left corner post, the U.S. had lost its lead and momentum to the surprising French.

After a 1-0 U.S. edge in the ninth minute, France had come on to control the tempo and post almost three-to-one advantages in shots and corner kicks.

The 122-minute marathon required to oust Brazil had taken an obvious toll on the U.S. and left its legs leaden and its chances of moving on increasingly shaky. The French, who had been strong finishers, scoring seven of eight goals in the event in second halves, were positioning themselves to have something to celebrate in addition to Bastille Day today.

But, suddenly, in the time it took to say, well, Monchengladbach, the site of the match, the U.S. went from the precariousness of a 1-all tie to two goals and a statement-making victory.

It went, with Wambach steadily rising up to meet Cheney's kick the way a wide receiver instinctively goes and gets an alley-oop pass in the end zone, from the verge of having something huge slip away to a place in Sunday's championship finale. Wambach provided the breakthrough in the 79th minute and Morgan sealed it in the 82nd.

When Wambach is on the ascent, we have come to learn, she is usually taking her team with her.

Reach Ferd Lewis at flewis@staradvertiser.com.






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