“It won’t be too long before she’s the best player in the world, no question.” That was the emphatic opinion of former Venezuela international Juan Arango when asked by for his views on compatriot Deyna Castellanos, who is fulfilling her rich promise faster than anyone expected.
A goalscorer at the age of 14 – along with team-mate Gabriela Garcia – at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Costa Rica 2014, Castellanos was in the limelight again at Jordan 2016, where she scored the goal of the tournament en route to collecting the adidas Bronze Ball and becoming the leading goalscorer in the history of the U-17 Women’s World Cup.
“I’m delighted with what Venezuela have achieved and with what I’ve achieved,” said Castellanos herself in an exclusive interview you can watch in the video above.
Two of the five goals she scored in Jordan to help propel La Vinotinto to fourth were truly spectacular strikes. In the group match against Canada, Castellanos controlled a lofted pass with her back to goal, took out two defenders with an impudent back-heeled drag-back and turned to hit a thumping shot into the top corner of the net.
Then there was the jaw-dropping effort that was voted by the fans as the goal of the tournament: her last-gasp effort from the centre circle against Cameroon, a stunning strike that kept her side firmly in contention for a place in the quarter-finals. “They were amazing goals,” said the player who scored them.
As both were scored after 30 September, neither goal is eligible for the 2016 FIFA Puskás Award, though they will both be in contention for next year’s accolade, much to the striker’s delight: “I’d be thrilled if either of them are in the running for the award.”
The Venezuelan starlet has some other big objectives for the future, as her mother Yrene Naujenis revealed in a conversation with FIFA.com: “She’s always wanted to see the senior Vinotinto team reach the World Cup, and she wants to pick up the award for best player.”
The young forward is delighted that FIFA’s awards offer equal recognition to the men’s and women’s games, in the shape of The Best FIFA Women’s Player and The Best FIFA Women’s Coach accolades, and sees them as a big step forward: “The men’s game is way ahead of the women’s right now, but these awards can help raise the standard of women’s football. That’s why it’s so important to me.”
Castellanos can vote for her favourites at The Best awards, just like any other football fan, a feature that sets these awards apart from the rest. Don’t forget that you can join her in casting your votes at and that you have until Tuesday 22 November to do so. The awards themselves will be presented on 9 January.
And don’t forget the name Deyna Castellanos either. Before you know it, her dream and Arango’s prediction could well be coming true.