Andre Ooijer may be approaching his 36th birthday, but 13 is proving his lucky number as he helps the Netherlands close in on a first FIFA World Cup™ title. The 35-year-old drew on all of his experience to recover from a tenth-minute error that gave Brazil the lead in Friday's quarter-final, before superbly marshalling a Dutch defence which proved the bedrock of a 2-1 win.
Ooijer was not even meant to be on the pitch in Port Elizabeth, but received a last-gasp call when Joris Mathijsen pulled up injured in the warm-up and coach Bert van Marwijk gave the nod to the veteran centre-back. "I wasn't nervous," said the former Blackburn Rovers player.
"I am no longer 18 years old. I am almost 36 (he will be on the day of the Final). The only thing that got to me is the number 13 on my shirt. But it finally brought me good luck."
This is Ooijer's third FIFA World Cup, and he wants to cap a great experience by helping his country win the Trophy that narrowly eluded them in 1974 and 1978. "I am the daddy of this squad," he said proudly.
"I feel there is a lot of maturity among my young team-mates. I am absolutely convinced that this team can become world champions."
Being part of the first Dutch team to win the World Cup would be the perfect reply to PSV management, who relegated him to the reserves last season and subsequently opted not to offer him a new contract. Ooijer says, though, he has no intention of hanging up his boots and has attracted interest from a Cypriot club.
"For the moment, I am without a club. That has affected me but now, that is a thousand miles away from my mind."