Adelaide United goalkeeper James Delianov was just six years old when Mark Schwarzer’s star turn in the penalty shootout against Uruguay sent the Socceroos into their first FIFA World Cup in 32 years.
From that moment it was cemented in the mind of the young Victorian, who was watching on TV at home with his football-mad family.
After mucking around in the backyard with his siblings, he decided was going to be a keeper and try to emulate the heroics of Schwarzer for the green and gold.
Delianov has come a long way since then and after representing Australia at Under-17 and Under-20 level, is now establishing himself as Adelaide’s first-choice shot-stopper in the A-League.
“I’ve got older siblings and my father obviously loves the game,” he told The World Game.
“I was always a goalkeeper, being the youngest of my siblings I kind of had no choice but to go in goals and face their shots. That’s how I really got into football and I’ve loved it every since really.
“I actually wanted to go in goals, it was the year Mark Schwarzer saved those two penalties against Uruguay to get us into the World Cup.
"We were watching that on TV, I got a pair of gloves a few weeks later and yeah, my brother and sister would shoot at me.
“It was actually really good practice them being older me. My brother’s four years older than me, my sister’s five years older, so then I would have kids my age shooting at me and their shots wouldn’t be as powerful.
“It was good practice, something that I’ll remember for the rest of my life. Hopefully one I can day I can inspire a five or six-year-old the same way Mark did.”
Delianov joined the Reds in November last year after coming through Melbourne City’s academy and spending a year at crosstown rivals Western United. But unable to crack a first-place place at Western, he moved to Adelaide and has made 10 A-League appearances so far this season.
“It was tough at Western United,” the 21-year-old admitted.
“I had former goalkeeper of the year Philip Kurto in front of me, and also I did my ACL. So I was rehabbing that for the whole season. It was tough, definitely.
“[But] it’s the difficult thing we have to manage I guess, being a young goalkeeper, you want to be out there but also everyday you’re trying to convince the coaches to have that trust in you. I’m grateful to have that opportunity that’s come here and hopefully I can continue on.
“Adelaide is a great city, some really nice beaches. The bunch of boys here are really good, good coaching staff – so I’m really enjoying being here.
"Every footballer wants to be involved in as many games as possible and that was something that I was seeking and I'm grateful for the opportunity that’s come.”
Delianov grew in Mill Park, in Melbourne’s north-east, idolising the likes of Schwarzer and fellow Socceroo keeper Mitch langerak as a kid.
He came through the AIS’s football program, joined Melbourne City in 2016 and went on to make his A-League debut in the final match of the 2018-2019 season.
“I watched Mark growing up, and a close Aussie keeper I kept an eye on was Mitch Langerak,” he said.
“I was always going to his games [at Victory] and watching his games, it was something that I always wanted to be when I was older. Really try and live in his footsteps.
"He was someone I would watch closely along with the Buffons, Casillas’, Alissons etc, but I feel like I have more of a connection with the Aussie keepers to be honest.
“I was there at City for three years, it was basically my first A-League club. It was good, I enjoyed it. It’s a lot different now living away from home and having to fend for yourself, but it’s good.”
Delianov has been part of both the Joeys and Young Socceroos set-up in the past, and was part of the squad that went to the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Chile in 2016.
"The keeper is still eligible for the Olyroos and has set a target of getting selected to go to Tokyo this year.
“They were good experiences, I was fortunate enough to go to the Under-17 World Cup in Chile,” Delianov said.
“I didn’t get to play but I really loved the experience. I participated in our qualifiers with the Under-20s and it’s always a privilege to play for your nation and hopefully I can represent Australia again soon.
“Every young Australian footballer wants to represent their country, Tokyo is something that’s definitely on the radar.
"But I’m just taking it day by day and trying to work towards that. If get selected, it’s great. If not, then I’ll keep pushing and try and be involved in the Socceroos etc.”
For now the shot-stopper is focused on Adelaide United and A-League matters. Delianov has notched three clean-sheets this year but has missed the past fortnight with a hamstring injury.
“I’ve strained my right hamstring, I did at training right before we played Melbourne Victory,” he explained.
“I thought it wouldn’t be that bad to be honest, but I got scans and so there was a strain. My goal is to be back for Western Sydney Wanderers, which is in two weeks time. I’m doing really well at the moment, I’m where I’m need to be if not a little bit ahead.
“But these things take time. I’m feeling really good and I ran on Friday for the first time. Of course it was frustrating but this is football, this is part of the resilience that you have to have. I’m looking forward to coming back and hopefully continuing on what I had going.”
Adelaide have surged up the ladder after a five-game winning streak. Currently the Reds sit in equal second spot, just three points below league leaders Central Coast Mariners.
Carl Veart’s men have been impressive and Delianov says his team can go all the way this season.
“That’s going to be the mentality and we all have that,” he said.
“We’re looking to go all the way. We’ll definitely be pushing for that. The club is doing well, we’re getting a little bit of momentum so I’m really enjoying it.”