(Reuters) – Former World Player of the Year Abby Wambach, the leading international scorer of all time who is renowned for her heading prowess, announced on Tuesday that she would end her stellar career in December.
The 35-year-old American, who has racked up 184 goals for her country in 252 appearances, will bow out after representing the United States on Dec. 16 against China in New Orleans.
That match will be the last of the U.S. national team’s 10-game ‘Victory Tour’ to celebrate their triumph at this year’s Women’s World Cup, where Wambach was finally able to add World Cup honours to the Olympic gold medals she won in 2004 and 2012.
“After much deliberation and talking with my friends, family, team mates and our coaching staff, I’ve decided to finally bring my football career to an end,” Wambach said in a statement.
“While we still have more work to do for women’s football, after bringing the World Cup back to the United States this summer, I’m feeling extremely optimistic about the future of our sport.
“It’s been an amazing, wonderful ride and I can’t wait to see what the next chapter of my life brings,” added the 2012 FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year.
A perennial fan favourite, Wambach is perhaps best known for the extra-time goal she scored against Brazil in their quarter-final at the 2011 World Cup, a trademark diving header which tied the score at 2-2 before the U.S. won on penalty kicks.
An inspirational figure both on and off the field, Wambach also scored the winning goal for the U.S. against Nigeria in their final game of group play at this year’s World Cup.
“Abby is a player who has transcended our sport and her legacy as one of the world’s greatest players is set forever,” U.S. head coach Jill Ellis said of Wambach’s 15-year career.
“What she has done for women’s football and women’s sports overall with her amazing talents on the field and her personality off it has been inspiring to watch.
“I am just extremely happy that she could end her career with that elusive World Cup title and go out on top, right where she deserves to be.”
Wambach scored nine goals in 10 Olympic appearances while she has struck 14 times in the 25 World Cup games she has played, with only Brazilian great Marta (22 World Cup goals) ahead of her.
(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Frank Pingue)