WOMEN'S WORLD CUP 2023
Spain women’s soccer team roster: players, profiles, stars
The lowdown on every member of the Spanish national team for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.
Spain head into the World Cup after what has been the longest year in the national team’s recent history. A huge cloud has swept over the side for the best part of 9 months as 15 players declared themselves unavailable for selection due to ‘emotional health’ reasons that were down to disagreements with the way the manager, Jorge Vilda, ran the show.
However, thankfully, negotiations have taken place and some of the players are back with a vengeance to put Spain where they belong: among the best teams in the world. Their squad is packed with talent and the decision to cut the 30 players down to 23 must have caused local pharmacies to earn millions from Vilda and his staff who no doubt had constant headaches from debating the various options.
But the 23 players are here, and they are ready to put on a show as Spain participate in their third World Cup.
As part of AS USA’s collaboration with the Guardian, we take a look at the squad of the Spain women’s national team for the tournament.
Check out the in-depth Spain guide to the 2023 World Cup.
22 June 1999 (23), Las Palmas
Misa Rodríguez was a surprise signing for the newly created Real Madrid women’s team when she joined from Deportivo in 2020. She has gone from an unknown quantity to a Madrid idol. She attracted attention when she was targeted by misogynistic abuse after tweeting side-by-side photos of herself and Madrid men’s player Marco Asensio, with the caption: “Same passion.” “Same sexual orientation,” “you’re as passionate as you are desperate to give him one,” were among the replies. The Spanish football world rallied around Rodríguez on social media, with Asensio quickly coming out in her defence by tweeting: “Same passion – don’t let anything or anyone stop you from saying what you think.” A player who’s having a great time of it on the pitch, Rodríguez is blessed with real strength of personality and is an immensely popular figure. She has now inherited the No. 1 jersey as Spain’s first-choice goalkeeper.
24 September 2001 (21), Moncada
When several Spain players stepped away from the international fold, opportunity knocked for the likes of Enith Salón, a goalkeeper who hadn’t previously had a look-in whenever the squad was picked. Although only 21, Salón has established herself as a nailed-on starter for Valencia. She doesn’t have the same status in the Spain set-up, but she doesn’t mind. “I wasn’t expecting the call-up,” Salón said in October after being brought into the squad for the first time. “It’s been a really special experience. I’ve felt more at home than I ever could have imagined.” She points to Iker Casillas’ World Cup-winning exploits for Spain’s men’s team as her inspiration for becoming a keeper. “Iker has always been a role model for me,” she says. “After his performances in South Africa in 2010, I had no doubt that I wanted to follow in his footsteps. I’ve had to work very hard to get to where I am today.” A World Cup now awaits; another dream come true.
23 April 2001 (22), Palma de Mallorca
Cata Coll is one of the surprise names on Spain’s World Cup list. For a few years now, she has found herself in the shadow of first-choice goalkeeper Sandra Paños at Barcelona. However, her efforts have brought her recognition from Jorge Vilda, who feels she has a promising international future. “Cata can bring something to the team both in the here and now, and in the years to come,” Vilda says. “All our players are top competitors, no matter how young they are.” Together with club-mate Jana Fernández, Coll had to come through one of the most difficult periods in her life, when she suffered a major knee injury in training in February 2022. “Having worked our way back together, Jana and I have formed a really strong bond,” Coll says. When she finally returned to action in March, the 22-year-old’s Barça colleagues gathered around her after the final whistle to hold her aloft in celebration. It’s a special memory for her; now, in Australia and New Zealand, she’s out to make more.
4 July 1991 (31), Legazpi
Irene Paredes is a figure who people look up to, a tireless presence who gets through mountains of hard work – often unseen. Just like a mother. Since 2021, she has combined her job on the pitch with one of the most special roles in life: bringing up a child. It’s a challenge she applies herself to with the same passion and care that are in evidence when she’s out on the pitch. Such qualities persuaded Barcelona to move for her when she was the captain at Paris Saint-Germain. “When it came to making a decision, I spent a lot of time speaking to [Barça] players in the Spain team,” Paredes says. “They spoke really highly of the club, of the project; they were a big influence on my decision, for sure.” She has now returned to the international fold with a change in status: following the mutiny against Jorge Vilda, she’s no longer captain. But, with or without the armband, Paredes remains a leader.
13 July 1994 (28), Ayelo de Malferit
Ivana Andrés will go down in the history of Spanish women’s football as the first ever captain of Real Madrid. The defender was named as the legendary club’s skipper when the team burst onto the scene on 1 July 2020. “Proud to be a member of this group and happy to experience moments that are part of the history of the Spanish game,” she said. It’s worth recalling how she started out. In what proved a sterling piece of talent-spotting, her parents signed her up for her local team because she’d spend all day kicking bottles around. She’s gone from there to leading both Real Madrid and Spain. Her unfussy, effective defensive performances for club and country have persuaded Jorge Vilda to hand her the international captaincy.
10 June 1999 (24), Vilasar de Mar
Ona Batlle can be considered La Roja’s great survivor. The Catalan decided to take her club career in a new direction at the toughest time possible: at the height of the coronavirus pandemic. New country, new language, new league, new friendships… and an injury made everything that bit more difficult. So much so, that she began visiting Manchester United’s psychologist. “It’s funny; talking about my feelings in a language that isn’t my own was easy,” she says. Despite being unable to travel home because of covid, missing out on Spain squads as a result, Batlle kept on plugging away and, at last summer’s Euros, she excelled. The 24-year-old also shone for United this season, proving one of the outstanding performers in the entire Women’s Super League. Having returned to the international fold on the eve of the World Cup, Batlle will look to continue her impressive progress down under.
11 June 2000 (23), Seville
Olga Carmona is among Spanish football’s most precocious talents. The Andalusian made her debut for Sevilla aged just 15, and has been a regular performer ever since. “My father signed my brothers up for football and I went every evening to watch them train,” Carmona says. “I ended up wanting to play so much that I said to myself: ‘Why shouldn’t I go out and train with them?’” And she got her way. Carmona was a marquee signing for Real Madrid in 2020, and is one of the Spanish game’s most exciting prospects. At 22, she has a very bright future ahead of her. At last summer’s Euros, she took a major step forward in her Spain career.
4 May 2000 (23), Sopela
Hailing from Sopela, a town of just 14,000 inhabitants that’s known for its beach and refreshing sea air, Oihane Hernández chose Athletic Club because of Bilbao’s proximity. Having excelled at the Basque club, the 23-year-old is now close to taking a big step forwards in her career by joining Real Madrid. Hernández has spoken of her shock at receiving her first senior Spain call-up last year. “I had a heap of messages on my phone,” she recalls. A highly musical individual, the defender is known for showing off her talents in the dressing room. “I’m a big music fan,” Hernández says. “I spend my days singing, dancing and strutting my stuff on TikTok.” She heads to Oceania ready to rock for La Roja on the right flank.
15 April 1997 (26), Córdoba
Rocío Gálvez has been one of the discoveries of the season. Her arrival at Real Madrid has thrust her into the game’s elite, both at club and international level. She joined Madrid in summer 2021, as Las Blancas looked to freshen up their backline by bringing in domestic talent. It’s a transfer policy that has also benefited the Spain team. Gálvez’s career hasn’t always been a smooth ride, though. She moved from club to club – playing for Real Betis, Atlético Madrid and Levante – before excelling at Madrid. Having caught Jorge Vilda’s eye, the 26-year-old earned her first call-up when Mapi León was ruled out by injury in September, and she’s been a fixture in the squad ever since. Gálvez rounded off 2022 by being voted Madrid’s player of the month for December by the club’s fans. Strong, physical and great at bringing the ball out from the back, she’s reminiscent of Gerard Piqué at his best.
22 January 2000 (23), Campllong
Laia Codina is another Spain player who carries Barcelona’s footballing DNA. The Catalan is a young gem that Barça have polished up since the age of 14, when she was snapped up after impressing at a Spanish youth football tournament. Codina’s leadership qualities and never-say-die attitude have led many to view the defender as a future Barça captain. Her commitment to the Blaugrana has also marked her out as a potential club skipper. The 23-year-old has been tipped to depart on several occasions, but leaving has never crossed her mind. Her love for Barça has proved too great. Codina enjoyed a dream debut for Spain last year, scoring in La Roja’s win over the United States. Much is expected of her.
4 February 1994 (29), Mollet del Vallés
When it comes to Alexia Putellas, all the talk now is about her back-to-back Ballon d’Or and FIFA The Best awards, not to mention all the other prizes the Barcelona captain has amassed in recent times – but her success is built on foundations that go way back. In no small part, back to the role played by her father, who always dreamed of seeing his daughter be successful at Barça. After a devastating struggle with illness, his death deprived him of the chance to witness that, but everything Putellas achieves is dedicated to him. “I’m going to try not to get emotional,” she said as she collected her Ballon d’Or in 2021. “Wherever you are, this is for you, Dad.” After suffering the biggest setback of her career just before last year’s Euros, sustaining a torn ACL that ruled her out for 10 months, she says she has returned as ‘Alexia 2.0′. She will be desperate to make up for lost time at the World Cup.
9 January 2000 (23), Pontevedra
Teresa Abelleira’s passion for football comes with her genes. Her father is a well-known coach in Galicia and her brother, also a footballer, was close to joining Real Madrid. Years later, however, it was Teresa who made the move to the Spanish giants, and she’s now a key figure at the Estadio Alfredo Di Stéfano. Her idol is fellow Galician Vero Boquete, and she also admires Andrea Pirlo. She seeks to emulate the way he looked after the ball. Jorge Vilda speaks glowingly of Abelleira: “You don’t see midfielders with the ability she has every day of the week. When she receives the ball, she takes every attacking move up a notch in quality.” Although the 23-year-old is a player who goes about her business with the minimum of fuss, the progress she’s making is certainly eye-catching.
20 October 1990 (32), Madrid
Claudia Zornoza has fought tooth and nail to get to where she is now: competing in the Champions League with Real Madrid, and at major tournaments with Spain. At 32, she’s set to get her first taste of the biggest international event of all. Starting in primary school, as a futsal player, she had to deal with the age-old stereotypes about girls and sport. A person of a naturally nervous disposition, she tries not to draw attention to her obsessive game-day habits: going to the bathroom three times pre-match, placing her right foot on the pitch first, always wearing the same hairband, always using round studs… She came close to becoming a member of Spain’s Civil Guard, but finally opted to train as a teacher. She has been a vegetarian for years, and has a particular fondness for ramen. Her disciplined approach has won over Jorge Vilda, who has made her a fixture in Spain’s midfield.
18 January 1998 (25), San Pedro de Ribas
When introducing the Barcelona midfielder, it’s important to begin with the story behind her name. Bonmatí, the first of her two surnames, is taken from her mother. In Spain, people traditionally use their paternal surname first, but her parents were pioneers in the movement against the prevalence of this custom. “In a lot of situations, women are given a secondary role,” Bonmatí says. “I’ve never let myself be pushed to one side.” A 5ft 2in battler, she has also refused to allow her diminutive stature to get in her way. Xavi Hernández was her inspiration. And, like Xavi, she has spent her whole life at Barça, playing the Cruyff way – so successfully, indeed, that she was Player of the Match in the 2021 Champions League final, and was Spain’s midfield conductor at last year’s Euros. Out to one day win the Ballon d’Or, Bonmatí was among the nominees in 2022. Having returned to the Spain fold, she has what it takes to be a World Cup star.
24 December 2001 (21), Barcelona
María Pérez is Jorge Vilda’s riskiest selection for the World Cup: after all, the Catalan midfielder is, technically speaking, not yet a first-team player at Barcelona. Having made fast progress since joining the Blaugrana youth set-up, Pérez got game time in both the Spanish top flight and the Women’s Champions League this season, but officially remains a member of the Barça B squad. The 21-year-old is already earning comparisons with Alexia Putellas – her great idol – although her midfield role is more similar to that of Patri Guijarro. “Being at Barcelona is a dream come true,” Pérez says. “I couldn’t believe it when they signed me. I’m focused on making the most of the opportunity and enjoying playing alongside some of the best players in the world.” Now, with Spain, she is set to fulfil another dream.
12 December 1996 (26), Seville
At the heart of Irene Guerrero’s story is her unshakeable desire to succeed. A lifelong Real Betis fan, she set aside her allegiances to start out at arch rivals Sevilla, before making the switch to the club she loves. “I’m very grateful to Sevilla for what they gave me, but when Betis set up a women’s team, I had no hesitation in joining,” Guerrero says. Discovered by Betis legend Rafael Gordillo, she made her name at the club, before moving on first to Levante, then Atlético Madrid. Everything she has achieved she dedicates to her parents. Her father, who died in 2019, was wheelchair-bound, as is her mother. “I’ve always watched them face every challenge without flinching, refusing to be fazed by adverse circumstances,” she says. “Quite the opposite.” Instilled with the same battling spirit from birth, Guerrero – whose surname translates as ‘warrior’ – is blessed with unsurpassable determination.
9 May 1990 (33), Madrid
Jennifer Hermoso is one of the veterans of this Spain team. The forward has gone from playing on the streets of Carabanchel, one of Madrid’s most underprivileged areas, to being invited to the Théâtre du Chatelet in Paris as a Ballon d’Or finalist. Her tough beginnings now feel a long way off. Encouraged by her grandfather, who was a goalkeeper at Atlético Madrid, she went to trials at the club. From there, she joined Rayo Vallecano, before setting off to earn a living from her great passion in Sweden. Later, she would also net a move to France, signing a big-money contract at Paris Saint-Germain, where she spent a year. Having had Hermoso in their ranks earlier in her career, Barça had no hesitation when the chance came up to sign her for a second time in 2019, and she didn’t disappoint on her return to Catalonia. Now, Hermoso plies her trade in Mexico, where she continues to bang in the goals and is a huge star. Her surname translates as ‘beautiful’ – and there can be no better description of the way she plays.
8 December 1992 (30), Huéscar
Esther González is Spain’s great battler. It’s what the forward has been doing since she took her first steps in the game. First in Huéscar, her Andalusian hometown, then in Villanueva de Algaidas, some 250km away. Twice a week, she had to make the long round trip from Huéscar with her father. She never gave up. The same goes for her Spain career. Despite being one of the Spanish league’s outstanding goalscorers, González couldn’t force her way into Jorge Vilda’s plans, and missed out on the World Cup in France. She kept on banging in the goals, though, and turned the situation around. “She’s a born hard worker,” Vilda says. González is now La Roja’s first-choice No. 9, spearheading the team with determination – and a smile on her face. Always.
27 August 1996 (26), Albacete
“When they asked me at primary school what I wanted to be when I grew up, I never had any doubts,” recalls Alba Redondo, who is an indefatigable on-pitch presence for Spain. “My mother would get me boys’ games and everyone else would say, ‘Wouldn’t you rather have a doll?’ No, I wanted footballs, football shirts, shinpads…” Having finished the Spanish league season as top scorer, the Levante forward has been rewarded for her exploits with a richly deserved spot at the globe’s biggest international tournament. A change to Redondo’s off-the-field routine has been key to her stellar displays for Levante: her diet is now handled by specialists. Green-pea and lentil pasta have taken traditional pasta’s place on the menu, while regular rice has made way for wild and black rice.
Athenea del Castillo
24 October 2000 (22), Solares
“The second they called me, I said adiós to any other team. I’ve been a Real Madrid fan since I was young. I’d pay to play for this club.” That was Athenea del Castillo’s categorical response when asked about her future in the Spanish capital. The winger was a revelation for Madrid in 2022, and also took that year’s Arnold Clark Cup by storm with Spain, earning the MVP prize. She wasn’t actually a first-choice pick for that squad; she was only called up when Mariona Caldentey dropped out. But it was a breakthrough tournament for her – and at last summer’s Euros, Del Castillo showed that she has become an integral part of Spain’s group. Jorge Vilda will have had no doubts about naming her in his World Cup squad.
27 January 2001 (22), Yecla
“I got injured in February 2021 in Huelva – that was the first injury,” Eva Navarro recalls. “It was a real blow. I was playing really well, and when they tell you that you’ve torn your [cruciate] ligament… it’s hard to take. I made my comeback seven months later, and relapsed. My whole world fell apart; I knew I’d done my knee again. I couldn’t even leave the house. I felt scared, anxious – even when it came to just stepping out onto the street. I couldn’t go on like that, so I sought help.” Thanks to that decision, the former Levante player has a smile on her face again. She’s had a great season at Atlético Madrid, who she joined during her recovery. “I owe so much to Atlético for showing faith in me despite the situation I was in,” the 22-year-old says. “I’m so proud to be at this club – I couldn’t be happier.” The speedy forward is getting stronger and stronger, but isn’t putting too much pressure on herself: “I’ll get back to my best – but it won’t happen if I rush it.”
13 November 2003 (19), Zaragoza
Salma Paralluelo’s move from Villarreal to Barcelona last summer was a turning point in her career. Up until a year ago, after all, she had juggled football and athletics. At weekends, she could be seen doing the business on both stages, helping the Playas de Castellón athletics club to victory in a mixed competition on the Saturday, before starring for Villarreal on the Sunday. Although injury finally ruled her out, Paralluelo’s inclusion in Spain’s Euro 2022 squad also had a big hand in her decision to focus on football. “Salma’s a player we’ve known for years,” Jorge Vilda says. “She offers real cutting edge and is a potential match winner.” At 5ft 9in tall, her height gives her an advantage; so, too, does her blistering speed. Twelve months ago, Paralluelo was a surprise call-up to the Spain squad; now, the 19-year-old is an established performer.
19 March 1996 (27), Felanich
Mariona Caldentey is happiness personified. The Barcelona forward always has a smile on her face. Even when she’s injured, and even in the face of the loss of her father a few years ago. “He was a pillar of strength in my life,” she says. “My passion for the game came from him. I miss talking to him after matches; my mum isn’t so up on her football.” Caldentey plays the piano, a pastime she finds therapeutic. She did so during lockdown, far away from her native Mallorca, far away from her family. “My grandmother, María, taught me to play,” she says. “So when I’m sitting at the piano, it reminds me of home, of family, of my childhood. It relaxes me.” Having returned to international availability, Caldentey is now going to the World Cup, and one thing’s for sure: she’ll be the life and soul of Jorge Vilda’s Spain squad.
Players who missed out on the final squad
Manager Jorge Vilda originally selected 30 players for his provisional squad, a number that was cut down to 23 after watching how his players fared in the preparation games against Denmark and Panama. It was a difficult decision that took a lot of thought, according to Vilda, who “didn’t sleep” the night before. These players, although out of the squad at the moment, have the chance to be called up right until the eve of the tournament, should the worst happen to those involved:
7 May 2002 (21), Zumárraga
Elene Lete’s case is similar to Enith Salón’s. Very close in age to Salón, Lete also found herself suddenly thrust into the international set-up and with the chance to go to the World Cup, having watched the Euros on TV only a year ago. Last summer, she had just won the Spanish league’s Premio Zamora, the award given to the season’s best goalkeeper. This term, Lete’s performances haven’t been quite so outstanding, but she’s working hard to get back to her best. Alongside football, her other passion is tattooing. “One day, I decided to buy a kit and start learning how to do it,” she says. “First you do it on synthetic skin, then on your own. One of the first tattoos I did on myself were my parents’ initials. They mean so much to me.” Everything Lete hopes to achieve will be dedicated to them – including, she believes, World Cup glory. “We’re going to win it,” she declares.
15 March 1997 (26), Yunquera de Henares
Sheila García is one of those players who goes in as hard on the pitch as she does off it. “We need to stop using the term ‘women’s football’ – the pitches and the rules are the same,” says the full-back, who started out as a winger. Her height led her to drop to a deeper position, and it’s a change that was the catalyst for her graduation to the Spain set-up, where she has won over Jorge Vilda. “Sheila is the most honourable player I’ve ever had the good fortune to coach,” declared Irene Ferreras, García’s boss at former club Rayo Vallecano, when Barça accused her of racism. It’s an episode that’s now firmly in the past, as is García’s difficult start to life at Atlético Madrid. “I even thought about quitting the game,” she has admitted. “My confidence was completely shot. I had always thought that seeing a psychologist was a bad thing, but I quickly realised I needed it.” Unfortunately, injury robbed Sheila of a place in the final squad, and she left the camp early on after joining. Luckily, she has time on her side and a lot of talent.
18 February 2002 (21), Martorell
One of the Spanish game’s brightest prospects, Jana Fernández saw her career placed on standby when she tore her ACL in training in February 2022. The Barcelona defender says she went through several stages after suffering the injury: first denial, then acceptance, and finally determination to fight her way back. “I’d get up every morning with my sights set on crossing that white line on game day,” she says. Fernández completed her recovery alongside club-mate Alexia Putellas – a shared experience that brought them close together. In February, the 21-year-old was given the all-clear to return to action. “I couldn’t be more delighted,” she said, “or feel greater satisfaction that everything has turned out well. I’m ready to give 100%.” She admits, however, that her first game back wasn’t an easy experience: “I was so, so tense. I was a bag of nerves…” Jana just missed out on selection given the plethora of talent Spain have in the back line.
25 March 1998 (25), Huarte
“I was always out in the street playing football with the boys,” Maite Oroz says. “I didn’t hang out so much with girls, because I enjoyed playing football with the lads more.” She took her first steps at CD Huarte, before playing for Osasuna and then Athletic Club, a team she left in acrimonious circumstances. The midfielder was one of the first ever signings made by Real Madrid – an opportunity she couldn’t pass up. At 22, Oroz left Bilbao for Madrid filled with hopes and dreams, and they’ve come true. She’s been pulling the strings for both club and country, having stepped up for Spain after a dressing-room rebellion against Jorge Vilda led to a mass exodus of players. For Oroz, the best is still to come.
19 June 2004 (18), Denia
One of the very youngest members of Jorge Vilda’s Spain squad, Fiamma Benítez was also eligible for Argentina, her parents’ native country. In 2020, indeed, Benítez said it “would be great” to represent the Albiceleste. In the end, however, the teenager opted for Spain, where she grew up and has forged her club career. Coincidentally, Argentina were the opposition when Benítez made her first appearance for the Spanish senior side, in a friendly in Melilla last November. “An international debut is always special, but facing Argentina would make it that bit more special both for me and my parents,” Benítez said before the game, in which she came close to marking her bow with a goal. Now the midfielder is on her way to the World Cup, and her parents will have divided loyalties…
26 May 1995 (28), Zaragoza
Marta Cardona emerged as one of the Spanish league’s stars in 2021, but a major knee injury brought her progress to a grinding halt. “I’ve become an expert in sports psychology – I’ve had that many sessions!” she says. “And I’ve started sprouting grey hairs. When things like this happen to you, you learn to value what you have.” Cardona’s return from injury was far from a smooth one; indeed, she found herself frozen out at Real Madrid after recovering. Right up until the last moment, her presence at last year’s Euros wasn’t a given, but Jorge Vilda gave her an opportunity that she grabbed with both hands. However, she has been left out of this final squad, a decision that came as a shock to many.
5 November 2002 (20), Seville
Of the youngsters emerging in Spain at the moment, Inma Gabarro is one of the most exciting. Her breakout performance at last year’s U-20 World Cup in Costa Rica, where the Spaniards were crowned champions, has earned her that status. Gabarro top-scored with eight goals, and won the Silver Ball as the tournament’s second-best player. At 20, she has already had a stadium named after her in her hometown just outside Seville, and has been honoured for her achievements by the Andalusian regional government. While Gabarro tends to operate on the right of the attack for Sevilla, Jorge Vilda has other plans for her. “We don’t think her club role brings all her potential out of her,” the Spain boss says. “We see Inma as an out-and-out No. 9.” The forward is a natural-born goalscorer.