"In this team, the players who can turn a game on their own are all forwards,” says PSV Eindhoven veteran Ooijer. “We have enormous talent up front, but our real outstanding quality is that everyone has the same attitude, which is that first of all we mustn’t concede goals." Back at the Philips Stadion after a three-year stint with Blackburn Rovers, the Amsterdam native speaks with enthusiasm about the defensive arts and remains the senior figure at the heart of the Oranje rearguard. A respected leader listened to by his younger colleagues, he and Joris Mathijsen contested every qualifier on the road to South Africa 2010, and this could well be his last opportunity to clinch a major title with the national team.
Recruited at the age of 12 by Ajax, he failed to make the grade in the capital and was loaned out to Volendam, before being transferred to Roda at the start of the 1995/96 season. A right-back equally capable of operating in central defence or as a holding midfielder, he was on the move again in 1997 as PSV came calling. Ooijer quickly became a key player at the club, winning five Dutch championships, and his displays in the UEFA Champions League marked him out as a consistent performer in Europe’s most prestigious club competition. On the international stage, he was an unused squad member at the 1998 FIFA World Cup™ and had to wait until 5 June the following year to make his debut, against Brazil, after the withdrawal of Michael Reiziger through injury. He was not selected for UEFA EURO 2000 and remained a somewhat marginal figure until the arrival of Marco van Basten. The former Ballon D’or winner gave him a more frontline role and fielded him in all four matches at Germany 2006. Highly experienced by the end of that tournament, despite only boasting around 20 caps, he then decided to pursue his club future abroad.
Ooijer’s early days in the Premier League were not always convincing but he eventually emerged as a first-team regular with Blackburn and won himself a place at EURO 2008, where his partnership with Mathijsen first came into its own. The duo will again be vital to Oranje hopes in South Africa, with Ooijer stating: "Our first intention remains to play beautiful football, but we also have to learn how to win without playing well. If you want to go all the way in a major international competition you need to find other means of winning when the team is performing less well. It doesn’t matter how, sometimes you just need to win. Our ambition has been to instil this way of thinking and so far it’s worked.”