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Big names miss out on Spain's World Cup roster in early ‘W’ for the USWNT

During Barcelona's recent Women's Champions League Final victory over Wolfsburg, nine Spanish players helped show why Barça are the preeminent force of the club game. It should logically follow that Spain are one of the pre-tournament favorites at this summer's World Cup, but on Monday their 30-player provisional roster was released with some big names already omitted before the squad is cut to 23.

Spain's tumultuous journey toward the World Cup was at its lowest point in September last year when 15 players (primarily at Barça) threatened to quit if manager Jorge Vilda wasn't fired. The Spanish FA backed Vilda over the players, the team got results in subsequent friendlies (including a 2-0 win over the USWNT) and ultimately 12 of the 15 players who resigned en masse asked to be called up again. 

But the three who didn't, and who are now officially out of the World Cup, are world-class:

(1) Patri Guijarro — A constant in Barcelona's midfield three, the 25-year-old finished her brilliant 2022-23 season with a brace against Wolfsburg in the UWCL final. She dropped nine assists in 29 Liga F games. Guijarro has 52 caps for Spain and played the full 90 in her nation's 2019 last-16 defeat to the USWNT. 

(2) Mapi León — One of the most recognizable defenders in the game, León captained Barcelona while strengthening her relationship with fellow center half Irene Paredes (who's in the Spain squad). León, who has 54 caps and also went the full 90 against the USWNT in 2019, said recently, "I can't go back, there has to be changes. If they tell me and there is a plan, but I don't see changes."

(3) Clàudia Pina — The 21-year-old is one of Barcelona and Spain's brightest young talents, and she had a big season with Barça, scoring 13 and creating 11 in 29 games across Liga F and UWCL play. 

Another crazy part to this story is that Barça goalkeeper Sandra Paños was one of the 12 open to a recall — she was Spain's No. 1 at Euro 2017, the 2019 World Cup and Euro 2022 — but Vilda has ignored her and instead taken Paños' backup at Barcelona, 22-year-old Cata Coll! 

Two important Barça players have been welcomed back to the fold — Mariona Caldentey and Aitana Bonmatí — and there's also a return for Manchester United's Ona Batlle (although teammate Lucía García remains frozen out). 

Two-time Ballon d'Or winner Alexia Putellas is also back with La Roja after her ACL injury, and she should be ready for a heavier workload at the World Cup after making six substitute appearances (totaling 119 minutes) at the end of Barça's campaign.

From a neutral's perspective, it's great to see that Bonmatí is ultimately with the squad because she can light up the World Cup, but a player like Guijarro also fully deserves to be there.

"Since September, a lot of things have happened, and one of the best things was that we played 11 matches and won nine, losing one and drawing another," Vilda said about his provisional roster. "We beat the United States for the first time and moved to sixth in the rankings for our highest position."

So while Vilda is still celebrating himself for a friendly win over a U.S. team that clearly wasn't itself over eight months ago, Guijarro is out of Spain's squad despite winning the UWCL final Player of the Match award on June 3. I don't really agree with Vilda's reasoning here.

Spain plays friendlies against Panama (June 29), Denmark (July 5) and Vietnam before playing all three of their group stage matches in New Zealand: Costa Rica (July 21), Zambia (July 26), Japan (July 31). 

They'll almost certainly advance and play an opponent from Group A (Norway, New Zealand, Switzerland, Philippines) in the Round of 16.       

Spain Women's World Cup provisional squad 

Goalkeepers: Cata Coll, Elene Lete, Misa Rodríguez, Enith Salón

Defenders: Ivana Andrés, Ona Batlle, Olga Carmona, Laia Codina, Jana Fernández, Rocío Gálvez, Oihane Hernández, Irene Paredes

Midfielders: Tere Abelleira, Fiamma Benítez, Aitana Bonmatí, Irene Guerrero, Maite Oroz, Sheila García, María Pérez, Alexia Putellas, Claudia Zornoza

Forwards: Mariona Caldentey, Marta Cardona, Athenea del Castillo, Inma Gabarro, Esther González, Eva Navarro, Salma Paralluelo, Alba Redondo, Jenni Hermoso 

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