Venezuelan sensation reflects on halfway-line heroics

If Deyna Castellanos’ right foot were an inanimate object, it might have already been placed in a museum. As it is very much part of her body, it will have to simply continue building the 17-year-old’s burgeoning reputation in Venezuela.

It was via that foot, which has already produced so many goals for her country at other age categories, that Venezuela scored twice against Cameroon to record their first victory at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Jordan 2016.

“I don’t know what that goal’s worth, but I know that it’s created all this happiness that we’re feeling right now,” a grinning Castellanos told a few minutes after bagging a memorable winner in La Vinotinto’s second Group B match. “It gave us the win, which was the most important thing, but it also brought us a huge amount of joy. And that’s priceless.”

For football fans who have not yet seen Venezuela’s two goals in Ammam, the highlights video is available now on, but watching them while seated would be advisable. The first, a delightfully struck free kick, was already worth a second look, but the undisputed highlight of the encounter was Castellanos’ last-gasp long-range winner from just inside the opposing half, scored just seconds after Cameroon had conjured up a 93rd-minute equaliser through Alexandra Takounda’s magical backheel.

Regular occurrence “Honestly, it really wasn’t just a hit-and-hope,” the Live Your Goals Player of the Match stated decisively. “I’d played it out in my mind beforehand; I saw that the goalkeeper was off her line a little. Nohelis Coronel had just come on, and she asked me where I wanted the ball. I showed her, and she rolled it exactly where I needed it. As soon as I saw it was heading in the right direction, I knew it was in.”

Castellanos’ instincts were not the only factor, therefore, that influenced this extraordinary piece of play. The decision made by Venezuela coach Kenneth Zsemereta to throw on Coronel, his final substitute, immediately after Cameroon’s leveller, was also instrumental. And there was a third, less tangible factor, as described by Castellanos, who already has a handful of senior caps to her name.

“The experience that we’ve all gained with the national team over the years helps a lot in these situations, and gives us the courage to attempt that kind of thing. It might seem like an absolute miracle, but it’s also the result of hard work.”

Most players, after achieving such a feat, would likely agree that that type of goal only comes along very rarely during a footballing career. But Castellanos has developed somewhat of a habit of finding the net from the centre circle. “When I was little, I often scored goals like that. And it also happened recently with Venezuela and with my college team in the United States,” explained the Florida State University striker.

“That goal wasn’t a matter of luck,” confirmed Zsemereta. “It’s a move that she’s worked on and that she tries out regularly.”

Crucial strike However, there is a big difference between the setting of those previous strikes and an U-17 World Cup, in the 94th minute, when the opposing side has just equalised and the gameplan appears to have fallen apart. “The game’s not finished until the referee blows the final whistle,” she said. “We didn’t hear it after Cameroon’s goal, so we said to each other, ‘Why not? Let’s do it!’”

The eventual outcome of that decision was an unexpected victory and a sensational strike that is already a candidate for goal of the tournament, or even for the FIFA Puskás Award, bestowed upon the player judged to have scored the best goal of the year. “It’s actually not the greatest goal of my career,” said the Costa Rica 2014 adidas Golden Boot recipient. “But it’s possibly the most important. No, in fact, the greatest and most important goal is the one I’m going to score in the final!”

If Castellano’s trusty right foot continues to hit the ball as cleanly and powerfully as it did versus Cameroon on Monday, who would disagree with that bold prediction?