July 16, 2011
By Michael Lewis
Wambach gets it, Prinz doesn't
This column is all about Abby Wambach and Birgit Prinz.
But then again, Wambach will be the the first one to tell you, whether you ask or not, that itís never about her, but rather about the team.
Judging her actions -- or is it her inactions and lack of goal-scoring in the Women's World Cup and her words, it seems it was too much about Prinz.
And that is a major reason why the United States is on the verge of passing Germany with its third Women's World Cup crown on Sunday and the Germans are at home watching on TV -- in their own country.
How these two superstars and super strikers handled adversity the past three weeks told you a lot about their respective personalities and how their struggles and words affected their teams.
Prinz, 33, a lethal goal-scorer (128 career goals) who played a vital role for the Germans' back-to-back titles, did not play well and did not do what she does best. After publicly criticizing the coach, she never saw the daylight off the bench for the Germans, who were humiliated by an upstart Japan side in the quarterfinals.
On the flip side was Wambach, who struggled to rediscover her scoring touch (one goal in her previous 11 matches before the Sweden encounter), kept pounding away at the opposing goal, reminding the world that she would trade all of her goals for a world championship.
Well, she didn't have to trade anything. Wambach connected in the second-half Group C 2-1 loss to Sweden. She struck for a wonder goal two minutes into stoppage time of the comeback against Brazil in which the teams ended at 2-2 before the U.S. prevailed in penalty kicks. And she headed home the go-ahead goal in the 3-1 semifinal win over France on Wednesday.
Wambach was rewarded for her persistence, patience and humility.
Prinz? She was reprimanded for her petulance, selfishness and big mouth.
Prinz has had that a big-time ego, which all goal-scorers need. But sometimes she can be too much of a diva. Back at the 2000 Olympics, Prinz and a teammate were on a two-on-break on an opposing goalkeeper. Instead of passing to Prinz, her teammate decided to shoot and missed the net badly. Prinz gave her teammate the evilest of eye eyes for not passing the ball to her.
She can learn something from Wambach's attitude for the next time she plays, whether it as an amateur on an over-grown grass field or in next year's Olympics if the German coach -- whoever it will be after a horrendous performance and results -- deems to select Prinz.