WOMEN'S WORLD CUP 2023
Women’s World Cup 2023: Spain in-depth team guide and prediction
Full information on the Spain team for the tournament in Australia and New Zealand: the coach, star player, rising star...
Here’s your guide to Spain at the Women’s World Cup 2023. This article is part of a collaboration with the Guardian, along with leading newspapers from each of the participating countries at the tournament.
Written by Amalia Fra for AS.
Check out the Spain player profiles on AS USA.
Spain enter their third World Cup established as a global force. La Roja have become a fixture in the top 10 of the world rankings – they are currently sixth – and travel to Australia and New Zealand optimistic of a deep run in the tournament, despite recent major upheaval in their setup.
Late last year, 15 of Spain’s regulars walked away from the national side in protest against head coach Jorge Vilda and his backroom team. This forced Vilda to turn to players further down the pecking order. Since then, a reshaped and eager group is pulling in the same direction. Recent results have been impressive. There have been wins against teams such as the USA and Norway, a 7-0 thrashing of Argentina and a draw with Sweden.
After a turbulent few months, Spain head down under having successfully relaid the foundations of their side. They also welcome back three of their ‘rebels’: Mariona Caldentey, Ona Batlle and Aitana Bonmatí. The Barcelona trio had been key players for Spain before the mutiny and their return represents a boost to the team’s chances of success at the World Cup.
“If these three players are here it is because they are committed to the national team and by extension they can play in the World Cup,” said Vilda, who has avoided discussing specifics about the 2022 walkout. “I’m convinced that we will form a united group.”
Drawn with Costa Rica, Japan and Zambia in a group that is, on paper, fairly straightforward, Spain are clear favourites to finish top of Group C. And in a further shot in the arm for the team’s ambitions, Irene Paredes, Jenni Hermoso and Alexia Putellas are also back in the fold. Although she only recently returned from a long injury absence, Ballon d’Or holder Putellas has her sights set on being Spain’s driving force at the World Cup. With Paredes and Hermoso, she brings experience to a young squad; many of Vilda’s charges are going to a major international tournament for the first time.
Spain: The coach
Jorge Vilda wants to make history with Spain. The 42-year-old took over in 2015, when Ignacio Quereda was sacked after the Canada World Cup, having failed to get out of the group in the country’s first appearance at the tournament. Vilda had been a stalwart of the coaching setups in Spain’s age-group teams, and in his tenure as senior manager he has promoted players such as Bonmatí, Patri Guijarro and Athenea del Castillo. As he prepares for his second World Cup at the helm, Vilda knows his team is one of the best on the planet.
Spain: Star player
Alexia Putellas, 29, is Spain’s undoubted star. This tournament is a golden opportunity for the midfielder to shine with the whole world watching. Last summer, Putellas was robbed of the chance to dazzle on the big stage when an anterior cruciate ligament tear ruled her out of the Euros. Having recently returned from 10 months on the sidelines, the back-to-back Ballon d’Or winner is set to pull the strings for Spain once more.
There is a slight doubt, however, over whether she’ll be fit to start from the get-go. A 7-0 win against Panama in a friendly in June was her first start this year, with Putellas, who has now gone for the ‘Rapinoe’ hairstyle, scoring after 22 minutes. “The feelings were very good, not just for the goal that she scored but for her assists, for how she helped the team,” said Vilda. “That’s what we expect from Alexia, but it’s clear the best of Alexia is still to come, and we’ll do everything on our side to make that happen.”
Spain: Rising star
Vilda has placed great faith in Salma Paralluelo. A year ago, she was a surprise pick for the Euros (albeit injury ultimately ruled her out of the tournament); since then, she has been a fixture for Spain. At 19, the forward has a very bright future ahead of her for country and club, having slotted in seamlessly at Barcelona since joining last summer.
Paralluelo, who scored a hat-trick on her Spain debut against Argentina, is blessed with immense physical prowess and doesn’t seem to be fazed by anything. Asked whether she could imagine winning the World Cup this summer, Paralluelo told fifa.com: “Of course. You always have to visualise these things. [But] the first thing we have to do is focus on the group stage. We can’t look beyond that.”
Spain: Did you know?
This is the ninth Women’s World Cup and only the third for which Spain have qualified. It wasn’t until 2015 that La Roja first appeared at the tournament – and they endured an unhappy debut, falling at the first hurdle. In the years since, Spain have made relentless progress, qualifying for every major tournament. They now need to take the next step on the biggest stage.
Spain: Standing of women’s football in Spain
Women’s football has well and truly arrived in Spain. The national team is on the up, and Liga F, the country’s elite domestic league, is now fully professional. Spain took its time to embrace the women’s game, but once it did, success followed. Just look at Barcelona, who have won the Champions League twice in the last three years. Spain is brimming with talent; judging by last year’s U-17 and U-20 World Cup victories, the future is bright.
Spain: Realistic aim at the World Cup?
Under pressure to go further than at previous major tournaments, Spain head to the World Cup with big ambitions. At a bare minimum, they ought to make it through their group and through the last 16. The quarter-finals, where the USA could await, would then be pivotal to how Spain’s campaign is viewed. Make it to the semi-finals, and the tournament would be seen as a success. Anything beyond that would be a truly momentous achievement.
The Spain team guide was written by Amalia Fra for AS in Spain.