Chelsea had four players who were involved in the tournaments group stages, Matej Delac, Ben Gordon, Gael Kakuta, and newly signed Oriol Romeu. Three of them have advanced to the knockout round (Romeu, Gordon, and Kakuta), and all of those three teams will be in action tonight (you can find all of the games on ESPN 3). Delac is the only one of the four who's team has been eliminated, so I thought we'd take a look at how he performed.
Judging strictly by the numbers, you'd assume Matej Delac has had an awful tournament. The Croatian team was awful, losing all three of there games while conceding an atrocious 8 goals. He did, however, have quite a few bright spots in the tournament as he was credited with a whopping 23 saves in only 3 games. Combined with the 8 goals, that's an average of over 10 shots on target allowed by the defense per game. While I'm sure the Croatian coach wasn't happy about those numbers, it gave me a rare opportunity to really see Delac in action. He's certainly an interesting keeper...at 6'3" he's big enough to cover the net and he's awfully quick to react to balls most of the time. He appears to be fairly agile, and he can certainly jump. He did get caught flat footed from time to time, and he was slightly slow to react to a few crosses. The defensive organization of the Croatians was terrible, and I'd assume at least some of that lies at the feet of Delac. On the other hand, he made a few absolutely brilliant saves in the tournament, so I'd be interested to get a further look at him in front of a halfway decent defense (say our reserve team for example).
Here's a quick highlight reel from the Nigeria/Croatia game so you can at least get a look at Delac (you should also take a look at the Nigerian #7). For what it's worth, Nigeria and Spain have been by far the best teams in the tournament so far, and England have the unenviable task of facing Nigeria this evening:
Here are the highlights from the Croatia/Guatemala game (Delac is in yellow). This one I like as we actually get to see some saves:
Here's the goals from the game against Saudi Arabia. Unfortunately I can't find a clip that has his saves on it, but beyond the two goals he was exceptional in this one:
Sorry I can't find more actual "highlights" of Delac, but that's likely the nature of the beast with youth goalkeepers. Overall I was fairly impressed despite the high goal totals. Delac will be an interesting one to follow this season. I'd assume we'll keep him in England with the reserve squad if he gets a work permit, and I think we'd get a much better sense of his abilities if that's the case. If he's denied a permit, his late start due to this tournament will probably make it fairly unlikely that he is loaned to a club that he starts for anytime soon as most clubs would have already settled their keeper situation for the start of the season. Either way, I was impressed enough with Delac that I think with some regular action he'll make Hilario expendable by the end of the season.