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COLONIE: Wambach helps next wave

Wambach has been an important cog in the U.S. women's national team for the last four years. Her two goals against Norway in the third-place game gives her nine for her World Cup career " good for second all-time among Americans behind Michelle Akers' 12 World Cup goals. She also scored the winning goal in the 2004 Olympic gold medal game.

"The Olympic experience was fantastic," said Wambach. "It was in a great country (Greece) hosted by great people, and I was fortunate to be in a position to help my team win a gold medal."

Winning world championships has become more difficult for the U.S. in recent years. Though the only team that has finished in the top three of every Women's World Cup since it began in 1991, the U.S. hasn't won it all since hosting the event in 1999. Wambach said that can be attributed to the growth of the women's game in such soccer-mad countries as Brazil and Germany, which played for this year's World Cup title.

"I have (international) goals, and I have caps, but those don't matter to me because I want championships," said Wambach. "We have to go back to the drawing board and figure out what we have to do in order to win it because we didn't win it this time."

One way Wambach believes the U.S. can climb back to the top is to encourage future generations to continue playing soccer as much for the love of the game as for international glory.

"That's one of the biggest messages we can send as girls. It's not how long you play a sport " it's about how dedicated you are because if you lose that dedication and that love for the game, you're not going to enjoy it and you're going to stop playing," said Wambach.

Wambach will likely be around on the U.S. women's national team for the next several years. At age 27 and on her way toward 100 goals in international play, Wambach is a near-lock to be on the 2008 U.S. Olympic team, though she isn't taking that for granted.

"The Olympic experience is something I hope to experience again," she said. "You never know, but I will say this " I know what it's like to win a gold medal, and I'd love to do it again.""

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