Saturday 08 October 2016, 07:39

Moreno eager to keep dancing with Venezuela

"It was a dance I learned yesterday – I came up with it myself," said Yerliane Moreno, before bursting out laughing. Her smile is a permanent fixture, a mixture of joy and disbelief at what has just happened. "It's just so exciting," the Venezuelan told, almost justifying herself.

To put her situation into context, only a win would do for Venezuela in order to reach the quarter-finals of the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup 2016. Canada were piling on the pressure but then Moreno teed up her captain Deyna Castellanos, who scored an outstanding goal. In the second half, as La Vinotinto were trying to hold onto their lead despite being down to ten players after Nikol Gonzalez's dismissal, Canada's goalkeeper saved a shot from Castellanos but Moreno was in the right place to turn home the rebound – and begin her special celebration.

"I talked to two of my team-mates and they liked the dance because it's funny, and so we did it," Moreno said. Castellanos, having just finished a press conference, cannot help but move closer to listen to her friend. Asked if Moreno is among the best dancers in the team, she replied: "Well, yeah, she is one of the better dancers but we're Latinas, so we all dance well!" Moreno casts an amused gaze at her friend before adding: "She's the bad influence when we dance." Then they both started laughing.

"I couldn't believe it when I scored," Moreno continued, under the watchful eye of her attacking partner. "I was so desperate to score at my first World Cup. I've dedicated my goal to my dad and to my family." Moreno is from a small town in one of the poorest regions of Venezuela, and it was thanks to her father that the No10 started out in the game. "He got me into it and when I was six I started training on a little pitch," she said. By the age of 13 the striker was a regular in La Vinotinto's youth set-up, and has remained there ever since.

Nationwide support "I'm working to become a professional footballer and I want to progress and move abroad," Moreno said. "I want to follow Deyna's example a little bit." Castellanos, who currently plays in a team in Florida, looks at her and tries to keep a straight face, but fails. "Very good, very good, I like that," she jokes, adopting the tone of an older sister. That sparks more laughter, a constant in this interview which has become more of a chat between friends.

"With God's help I hope I can keep scoring goals and help the team," Moreno said. "I hope so too!" replied Castellanos, who became the tournament's all-time top scorer on Friday thanks to her effort against the Cannucks. She is, however, delighted to share goalscoring duties with her friend.

Moreno, meanwhile, is happy to know that back home her family are not missing a kick whenever she plays: "They told me that during the South American Championship all my family and friends got together at home to watch the games. When I scored they probably knocked over the television." Castellanos added: "It's crazy in Venezuela right now," aware that every time the team wins or she does well, the whole country comes to a standstill and the team becomes a trending topic on Twitter.

So will it be the same in the quarter-finals against Mexico? Moreno is optimistic: "We've played against them before and I think we need to work on a few things. It's going to be quite difficult but you can achieve anything by working hard."

And with that the two friends take their leave. It is time to rest… and to prepare a new dance routine.