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FIFA Women's Player of the Year 2013: Abby Wambach Deserved World Football Honor

ZURICH, SWITZERLAND - JANUARY 07:  Abby Wambach of United States receives her FIFA womens player of the year trophy  during the FIFA Ballon d'Or Gala 2013 at Congress House on January 07, 2013 in Zurich, Switzerland.  (Photo by Christof Koepsel/Getty Images)
Christof Koepsel/Getty Images
Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistJanuary 7, 2013

With her performance in 2012, Abby Wambach earned the FIFA Women's World Player of the Year.

Wambach beat out Brazilian forward Marta and compatriot Alex Morgan. She's the first American to win the award since Mia Hamm in 2002.

Marta has been a mainstay on the ballot, as she has been named World Player of the Year five times and finished runner-up three other times.

For Wambach, it was a very satisfying conclusion to her year, as 2012 proved to be a year in which she and her team avenged the biggest losses of 2011.

The United States lost the 2011 Women's World Cup to Japan on penalty kicks. In turn, Wambach finished third to Japan's Homare Sawa in Player of the Year honors.

This year belonged to the U.S.—and more specifically to Wambach. The women's national team brought home the gold at the 2012 Olympics, beating Japan, 2-1, in the gold medal match. Earlier, in the semifinals, Wambach had scored the equalizer in the U.S.'s 4-3 win over Canada.

The United States is without a doubt the best women's national team in the world. As a result, many of the players have become household names. There's Hope Solo, Megan Rapinoe, Lauren Cheney, Christie Rampone and the aforementioned Morgan, to name a few. Their success is a total team effort.

Wambach doesn't do it all by herself, but she is the spark. If you were to judge her simply on talent alone, she may not be even the best player on the U.S. team, let alone the top player in the world.

But time and again, Wambach has been there on the biggest of occasions.

In a match against Colombia during the Group Stage of the Olympics, Wambach was hit in the face by Lady Andrade. Wambach stayed on the pitch, black eye and all, and managed to even score a goal.

It was a scene not unlike when the U.S.'s Brian McBride was elbowed by Italy's Daniele De Rossi at the 2006 World Cup. Both incidents represented the perseverance and refusal to quit that fans love to see so much in their favorite athletes. American fans in particular pride themselves on the fighting spirit their teams exude.

Few could have thought that any American female soccer player would surpass Mia Hamm and what she accomplished.

Wambach is getting extremely close to the benchmark that Hamm set. At 32 years of age, she still has enough time to continue building on her already impressive resume and pick up an ever-elusive World Cup title.

For now, it's time simply to celebrate Wambach's 2012.

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