Abby Wambach became the all-time leading goal scorer in international men’s or women’s soccer on Thursday with four goals to secure a 5-0 friendly triumph for the US over South Korea.
The 33-year-old striker broke the old all-time world mark of 158 goals set over 275 matches from 1987 through 2004 by former US teammate Mia Hamm, scoring four first-half goals in her 207th cap to stand on 160 career goals, 69 of them headers.
“It’s surreal to begin with,” Wambach said.
“The whole first half was crazy. My teammates were trying to get me those goals. It was clear. I’m so thankful,” she said.
Wambach, last year’s FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year, opened the scoring in the 10th minute with a right-footed blast and matched Hamm’s mark in the 19th minute with a header, stretching her US record for multi-goal games to 39.
The record-setting 159th goal for Wambach came in the 29th minute, when Megan Rapinoe fired a corner-kick into the area and Wambach nodded home.
Wambach hugged Rapinoe in celebration and was then mobbed by her joyous teammates as parents Pete and Judy Wambach watched from the stands.
“They were all about trying to get me goals,” Wambach said. “I want to thank them. We made a lot of things happen. We attacked in many different ways.”
In first-half stoppage-time, Wambach stretched the new mark to 160 goals to give the US a 4-0 halftime edge.
Wambach, a two-time Olympic champion, was removed in the 61st minute for reserve Christen Press to a huge ovation from the crowd at the home of Major League Soccer’s New York Red Bulls.
In the 67th minute, Lauren Cheney added a final goal for the US women.
Hamm, who retired nine years ago, was not at the match, but issued a statement saying: “Just watching those four goals, that’s what she is all about. She fights for the ball, she’s courageous and she never gives up.”
“From being her teammate early in her career, I know all she ever wanted to do was win, and she continues to do that,” Hamm added.
Hamm also lauded Wambach in a Twitter posting, saying, “Congratulations @AbbyWambach. So proud of you, my friend. You are a warrior and true champion. Enjoy this.”
Wambach was a teenager on the US women’s under-16 squad when she first saw Hamm practicing with the national team at the same site.
“Ever since that day, this is what I wanted to do,” Wambach said.
However, Wambach added that she was relieved to have her chase of Hamm’s mark finished.
“As a competitor, you want to be done with being second,” she said. “This team is too good to be talking about just one player. I’m glad it’s over with.”