Wambach named Player of the Year
United States forward Abby Wambach was named FIFA Women's World Player of the Year on Monday, adding the game's biggest individual prize to her London Olympics gold medal.
Wambach is the first American to be voted as the world's best since now-retired great Mia Hamm won the 2002 women's award.
The 32-year-old Wambach edged five-time winner Marta of Brazil and her national team strike partner Alex Morgan and in the voting.
''Thank you for challenging me every day, Alex especially,'' Wambach said to her rivals on the three-player shortlist after receiving the trophy from teammate Hope Solo at FIFA's annual ceremony celebrating world football.
On a marquee night for the U.S. team, coach Pia Sundhage won the FIFA coaching award for women's football.
The Swedish coach serenaded Wambach and Morgan in her acceptance speech, delighting the Zurich Kongresshaus audience by singing a verse of the Bob Dylan song `If Not For You.'
Wambach got 20.67 percent of the voting points cast by national team coaches and captains around the world, plus invited media, who gave their top-three lists from an original slate of 10 players. Marta scored 13.50 percent and Morgan tallied 10.87 percent.
Wambach scored five times at the London Games as the U.S. won its third straight Olympic title. Her late penalty in a tense semifinal against Canada leveled the match at 3-3. Morgan scored the eventual winning goal deep into stoppage time at the end of extra time.
Wambach's career total of 152 international goals is closing in on Hamm's world record of 158.
Earlier, both U.S. nominees paid tribute to Hamm's influence on their career.
Wambach said her teammate on the winning 2004 Olympic team ''played a huge leadership role in my life.''
Hamm stressed that winning championships as a team was much more important than collecting any individual award, Wambach said earlier at the candidates' official news conference.
''She won the award a couple of times and never once talked about it,'' said Wambach, who finished third in the FIFA award last year. ''She only talked about championships, how those felt, and I've always had that similar mindset.''
Morgan, who is 23, described Hamm and the 1999 Women's World Cup-winning team as ''a big inspiration.''
''That is what started my passion for the game and created a dream in my mind that I wanted to play on the national team,'' Morgan said. ''Being considered in the same category is an amazing honor.''
Morgan and Wambach combined to score 55 goals for the U.S. national team last year. Morgan had three at the Olympics, and added a tournament-best five assists.
''They made me look good and scored a lot of goals,'' Sundhage said earlier.
Hamm also finished runner-up for the FIFA honor twice. Other Americans to make the shortlist include runners-up Tiffeny Milbrett (2001), Kristine Lilly (2006), and third-place finisher Shannon Boxx (2005).