The Castellanos show continues.
First, there was that incredible stoppage-time winner from the halfway line against Cameroon. Then, there was the tremendous turn and finish that undid Canada. Today, having already established her predelection for spectacular goals, Deyna Castellanos continued in the same vein as Venezuela came from behind to beat Mexico in the Jordan 2016 quarter-finals.
The CONCACAF side had only just taken the lead, when the brilliant Venezuelan again came to the fore, striking twice in four minutes to send her country into the semi-finals, a stage they also reached in 2014.
In the stands, as she watched her daughter race onto a ball over the top and steady herself on the edge of the area, Yrene Naujenis, who had endured the disappointment of Mexico’s opener one minute earlier, began to rise to her feet in anticipation of what was to come. “I’ve spent so much time watching her play that I know all of her moves," she told FIFA.com. "When she’s heading into the box like that, she generally makes no mistake."
Castellanos’ mother struggled to express her emotions after witnessing her daughter’s fine display. “I can’t find the right words to describe how I feel. I’d say that I’m happy – very happy, of course,” she said, her smile widening. Present at Costa Rica 2014, she rarely misses one of Venezuela’s matches. And each time her daughter scores, Yrene and Deyna repeat the same ritual, looking for each other and making the shape of a heart with their hands. “We agreed to do it each time,” she explained. "It’s our little sign. We have a special bond."
She has a really powerful shot, and when she hits the ball, it always goes straight as an arrow.
But Castellanos’ mother is not the only person who recognises what is going through the Venezuelan captain’s mind in certain situations. Nayluisa Caceres, La Vinotinto’s starting goalkeeper, and defender Sandra Luzardo are also familiar with their good friend’s moves. They are big admirers of the U-17 Women’s World Cup all-time top goalscorer, even when she gives them the run-around during training sessions.
“We are, as they say, football sisters,” said Caceres. “She’s such a complete player,” added Luzardo. “She has everything you want from a forward, and I thank God for giving her those skills.”
Are matches a little more comfortable with the dynamic attacker in the side? “Yes, we definitely sleep better with her in the team. I admire her a lot,” continued Luzardo. Caceres, with whom Castellanos practices penalties and free kicks, is well-placed to weigh in on her shooting technique. “She has a really powerful shot, and when she hits the ball, it always goes straight as an arrow. We like to challenge each other. She says things like, ‘Let’s see how many goals I can put past you’, and I respond, ‘Let’s see how many I can stop’,” she said, laughing.
Luzardo, meanwhile, has more experience of dealing with her talented team-mate’s feints in training, but she has not always found an effective way of stopping her. “When I have to defend against her, I think I already know what she’s going to do, but then she comes up with a new move! In fact, she often tries out stuff on me that she later does out on the pitch. Sometimes she says to me, ‘Let’s see how this goes’, and then I tell her, ‘Deyna, you’ve got to do that one in a match.’”
With the hurdle of the quarter-finals safely behind them, Venezuela will wait to see which team emerges from the clash between Korea DPR and Ghana to face them in an exciting-looking semi-final. The spotlight will, of course, again be on Castellanos. By then, she may well have some new tricks up her sleeve, which she will have doubtless already tried out on her long-suffering team-mates.