Road to Qatar: Andries Noppert

The 28 year old is born in Joure, Friesland. Pronounced “Jower”, so his nickname is: The Tower of Joure. Yes!

I had prepped Road to Qatar posts for Flekken and Cillesen, considering these two would make the cut. But they didn’t.

This tall, lanky, somewhat lacklustre goalie who played only 51 Eredivisie games for Go Ahead Eagles and SC Heerenveen and never one single match in a rep team for Oranje ended up surpassing the two experienced goalies and made it to Oranje #1.

What a story. If Noppert learned one thing, it is that nothing is impossible.

It’s 2020, and dad Noppert asks his son to come round for a chat. His deal at 2nd tier club FC Dordrecht is coming to an end. Due to injuries, the tall goalie didn’t make an impression. Andries’ dad Fokko suggested that his son probably should start thinking about another career. Police officer maybe? But Andries didn’t want to hear it. He invested in another rehabilitiation session and with his resilience, his patience and a bit of luck, he ended up becoming the most amazing keeper story in the history of Dutch goalkeeping. Because today, Van Gaal decided that Noppert is the best goalkeeper of the Nation.

And Noppert goes from surprise to surprise. He’s now in a hotel room in Qatar so big he needs directions to find the toilet (his words) and had to call reception to find out how he could close the drapes at night. Oh, we do this via a remote control, electronically, Mr Noppert. They don’t have those hotels in Heerenveen, it seems.

In Joure, Noppert started to play football as a outfield player. “He was a rough player, like a tank. So much energy. He would simply go for the ball, no matter what.” This mentality meant that the youth coaches felt he would be great as a keeper. “He was tall already and fearless,” says his dad, who is also 2 meters tall.

When he is 10 years old, SC Heerenveen comes along and the youth coaches saw something interesting. “He was the only kid who wasn’t impressed to be here, or who wasn’t nervours. He came across as a sponge, was keen to learn about everything.”

“He also was active as a gymnast and despite his lengthy frame, he was very agile and lightfooted. Usually, tall guys can have coordination issues, but not Andries. He was very good with his footwork and movement.”

When keepers trainer Van der Sleen moves to Breda to work at NAC, Noppert wants to go too. Heerenveen offers the youngster a contract but Noppert is keen on an adventure with his coach. The goalie would not make a mark in Breda and NAC gets relegated.

In the 2nd tier, Noppert doesn’t make a name for himself as a goalie, but as a practical joker. One of his fave tricks was to park cars of team mates on very tough spots in the surrounding nature. “There was this hill, it was not easy to get your car on there, or off, and we would take someone’s keys and take his car and park it up there. If they came back from the physio or whatever, we would say “hey mate, isn’t that your car up there? How did it get there? Hahahaha”.

More typical football dressing room humor ensues. The worst one: not flushing the toilets. The coach would be driven to madness and Noppert and his mates would be having more than a casual laugh.

It’s 2017 and Italian side Foggia is looking for another goalie. Somehow, Noppert is their man. He’s 23 years old wen he moves to the South of Italy. Breda wasn’t good to him, but Italy was worse. Different coaches, no playing time, a lot of criticism and threats from fans and dealing with the local mafia. At one point, his car was stolen and offered back to him to buy. His dad: “Andries doesn’t speak Italian and didn’t speak English too well and then you end up there. Madness, things happened there you would never see in The Netherlands. But, I think it made him stronger.”

Noppert returns to Holland after two seasons. His girlfriend Sarena is grateful. Life in Foggia wasn’t too good for her. The 24 year old can sign a deal with FC Dordrecht. Coach Claudio Braga offers him a starting berth and he plays a very strong game against NEC, the first match of the season. At training, the goalie gets a heavy knee injury. Another major set back. Due to Covid, Noppert can’t travel to his physio and builds a home gym to deal with his recovery. But his Dordrecht contract expires and the tower is going to have another tough conversation with his dad and wife, who try to convince him to stop dreaming. Noppert refuses to give up.

It would take six months since his recovery for another club to contact him. Go Ahead Eagles just lost two goalies due to injuries and need a back up. Warner Hahn is also brought in and the tall Frysian loses out against the former Feyenoord talent. His Go Ahead coach Van Wonderen: “Lets just say that Andries didn’t make it hard for me to pick Hahn.”

Van Wonderen: “He made mistakes, but he also had the most miraculous saves! I noticed he was at peace with being second keeper. He lacked sharpness and hunger. I made him aware. I triggered him. And when Hahn was going through a bad spell, I gave Andries his chance. He took it.”

He had an impressive half season and now suddenly clubs were queueing up for him. FC Utrecht, Heracles, Cambuur, they all wanted him now, but Andries’ heart went out to his first love, SC Heerenveen.

He wanted to be closer to his family, now Noppert and wife have a child, and he is finally able to play football in front of his old mates, who usually go and watch Heerenveen play.

At Go Ahead Eagles, the fans started to chant “Noppert in Oranje!!” and it was seen as a silly joke. No one knew that only a year later the injury-prone towering goalie would actually be on Van Gaal’s radar.

When he got the first invite for Oranje, he received a phone call from his old youth coach. In typical Noppert style, he told his old coach: “Can you believe it? They all fell for it!”

Bookmark and Share


  1. I was waiting for this one given he is little known. I remember first watching him vs Ajax where they got thrashed 5-1 but then it could have been more worse if not for big saves. I think his break through is an important one for the NT and from dream team in 2026 point of view.

    This what I like about underrated players who explode on the big stage when given opportunity and this is why I keep following some of the players who play in smaller clubs. It’s obvious in training sessions he must have outshine everybody and hence got the nod from van Gaal.any thoughts if he can be next van der sarr or reach his level.

    I’m hoping next one will be Dilrosun. I think he has one cap though.

  2. @ Jan

    “Wilson thinks that if something didn’t work in Team A under Coach B in competition C, it can not work ever in any other circumstance :-).”

    I don’t know what this means but let me try again what I was trying to highlight.

    What I simply said you should always go with plan A and Plan B for unforeseen circumstances. With the dutch plan A is already looking striken and plan b dont know if there is any.

    If you look at teams like Argentina,Brazil,France,Portgual,Spain, they used all the players including the bench extensively during qualifying competition to fine tune team and also build that depth for a quality back up.

    France with so many big injuries have still managed to put together a good team and through what????

    We have already debated on this, for the dutch this wasn’t a feature and they are relying on different team different approach, this player in this match, that player in that game as it unfolds. No other team is doing this.

    You look at Argentina and Germany, they lost, reviewed and came back strong. Germany had to dig deep vs Spain and they did deliever. I’m not sure if NT are in same mould to do this. Only vs qatar they will come out beating their chest.

    Like I said in my earlier van Gaal has been caught in his own imagination become delimma.

  3. Wilson, you said you didn’t believe Frenkie could play more higher up the pitch “because he tried it under Koeman and Barca and that didn’t work”. That is a very very limited analysis.

    A bit like: Federer hit a ball in the net. He can’t play tennis.

    Anyway I am not big on Noppert. He didn’t stop a ball Bijlow wouldn’t have stopped. But his mistake in kicking out got Ecuador their goal (yes, Frenkie, Timber and Van Dijk were also culpable). And in the last minute or so he almost scored in his own goal via a forward. Noppert is not our future goalie, I can assure you.

    1. Noppert seems like a penalty killer for me ..He is not afraid of anything..exact opposite of cillessen.i imagine noppert saves us from penalty shoot outs in coming matches ,perhaps VS england ..that would be awesome…Noppert is goalie who dont concede easily but his only issue is that he is not a modern day ball playing GK..considering the silly mistake of Noppert ,and seeing Bijlow performance its hard to make a a Wc we might be better with Noppert the giant..

  4. Noppert is the right man and doing the right things. If we look at goal which messi hit against mexico, okochoa being shorter could not get his hands to it. But if it was Noppert, then with his out stretched hands he could have just about managed to push it out.

  5. I would love to see Frenkie higher up the pitch. With him basically in the back line, there’s too big of a gap (in physical space and in quality) in the midfield. Perhaps de Roon and Koopmeiners behind him would be a good mix, allowing us to keep a solid defense while pulling Frenkie into a more creative position. We should have the distribution from the back covered with Virgil and Ake.

    I’m not so comfortable with Noppert, I don’t really understand the thinking. I figured that, for the first match, van Gaal wanted to give him his cap, give him the experience of playing in the jersey, just so that he would be a little more prepared whenever he’s needed later in the tournament, like as a penalty killer in a knockout game. But my logic, we would have seen Bijlow/Pasveer in the second match, so maybe he’s just truly the Number One for this tournament.

  6. Van gaal wants third time luck or pure luck..As long as he keeps starting Blind and Dumfries with 532 We wont go furthur..A good attacking team will murder us..May be Brazil or france..or even before..Memhis feels fit enough..but feeling has no place in WC…i really hope LVG plays Frimpng,Malacia,simons in next game…also de ligt and get back to 433 which helped us to beat Turkey 6-1, france 2-0,Denmark 4-2, victories Vs germany,2-0 norway etc…

  7. Great article, Jan! What a story Noppert is!

    There was certainly some excitement in the early matches today — Cameroon and Serbia drew 3-3, and Ghana defeated South Korea 3-2!

    After these results, I believe that only Costa Rica has averaged fewer shots per match than we have.

  8. It seems like at least Jan and Aanvullah are in agreement with my suggestion about pushing Frenkie forward. I certainly think it’s worth a shot, even if just for a portion of the Qatar match, to see if his presence in attack can help create more scoring opportunities. In coaching, there is often talk of “quantitative advantage” and “qualitative advantage” (they like using complicated sounding terms in licensing courses). Quantitative advantages arise when you overload zones with your players or create man-up situations through dribbling or combination play. Qualitative advantage is when you get the ball to Arjen Robben and let him go to work. I think we need Frenkie to provide us with some qualitative advantage as an attacking midfielder.

    1. In terms of your qualitative and quantitative advantage approach, the only option I see is playing the “False 9” system with two inverted wingers who can cut in and two side backs behind them on their stronger side. I remember Davy Klaasen played that role last year so either he (if he has the lungs) or Simmons need to be there. Given the lack of our striking power, this seems our only option. Frenkie needs to stay where he is in the deep lying playmaker and shield role.

  9. Finally, one of the World Cup sites provided player ratings for all of the participants and listed the top 100 ranked players. I’m normally pretty dubious of these types of assessments, but their analysis of our players actually seemed pretty accurate:

    19. Frenkie de Jong
    30. Cody Gakpo
    55. Andries Noppert
    91. Nathan Ake

    The other players included in the top 100 that we’ve faced include:

    7. Enner Valencia (Eduador)
    20. Famara Diedhiou (Senegal)
    46. Angelo Preciado (Ecuador)
    64. Ismaila Sarr (Senegal)
    77. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal)
    90. Pervis Estupinan (Ecuador)
    92. Boulaye Dia (Senegal)
    95. Youssouf Sabaly (Senegal)

    No Qatar players are featured in the top 100 so far…

  10. The US telecast announcers are so intolerable. Aly Wagner bringing all the “inverted wingbacks” and “halfspace” references like she’s been given a glossary of fancy soccer teams to try to work in. And Derek Rae pronouncing Richarlison like he was Robespierre’s right hand man during the French Revolution. And those are just snippets within the broader discussion of how this iteration of Brazil is perhaps the greatest sporting team ever assembled in human history. It’s 0-0 against and ordinary Swiss team after 35 minutes. Spare me the hyperbole!

    1. Oh dude, you certainly have a strong stomach for going 90 mins through listening to those buffoons. I am following all games in Spanish and love it. They invite no nonsense former footballers and are well within tolerance. + plus you won’t understand half of what they say so it is less stress for the ears.
      The Gooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooal scream is priceless 🙂

      1. Hahaha! That’s usually my MO too (even though I don’t speak Spanish), but I’m streaming today and for whatever reason the Spanish telecast is not quite as Hi-Def as the US version, so I was trying to give it another shot… Suffice it to say it’s muted now!

        1. The Spanish broadcast is also great for when you’re working too, because the intonation of the announcers changes as opportunities develop and you get a heads up that some exciting action is developing. Meanwhile, the US announcers are droning on about some manufactured narrative they’re pushing or somehow trying to relate everything back to US men’s or women’s game 😀

      1. Well the fact that Switzerland fielded both a Rodriguez and a Fernandes seemed to make the US announcer’s day. Brazil was certainly pressing the Swiss, but that goal was a little unlucky.
        That said, Brazil did take 13 shots (5 on target) to Switzerland’s 6 (0 on target). But I thought the Swiss generally did pretty well and could still advance. Maybe “ordinary” was too harsh?

        1. The Swiss defend ok, I think. But were dreadful on attack. They were much better at the euro.

          I must say, being Swiss (and a quarter dutch😉) is a bit weird now. The Swiss used to be utter crap, but now that they beat France at the euro, Spain, Portugal, Italy later, it’s harder to stay neutral 🤣

  11. Left town almost immediately after the Ecuador match (no cause and effect, though), and have been enjoying the comments upon return. So many opinions and observations to consider.

    Anyway, my quick 2 cents, two things need to happen:

    First and foremost, the midfield needs to get sorted out.

    The statistics from the Senegal match Jan posted were interesting, but Berghuis didn’t seem all that effective in the first match. (And apparently LVG agreed becasue he didn’t start.) Klaassen had the assist on Gakpo’s strike, but was no help the rest of the match. True, the initial set up was for him to play further up the field in the first, but in the second, he dropped a little deeper and was still no help. Koopmeiners seems to be a compromise; a little more offense than De Roon, a little stiffer defeensively in the mf than Berghuis, but, in the Ecuador match gave the little of either. (And I say these things freely admitting that going into the match, I was hoping for Klaassen at the 10, with Gakpo moving to Janssen’s spot, and Koopmeiners in for Berghuis.)

    So Frenkie was often positioning himself between VVD and Ake defensively, bringing the ball up under pressure, and being asked to help create in the offensive zone, harried all the time, in too little space as the the Ecuador defender played close to the mf, leaving little room. (This was the type of match Danjuma should have been in the team for…with his ability to get behind the defense.)

    At this point, its probably time to try De Roon, and push De Jong more forward. More solid defensively, more bite in the midfield. While there may not be need for this set up against Qatar, I’d still use it.

    Second, Depay has to emerge. The NT needs his skill and creatively and link up play with the other attackers. Hopefully, his appearances in the Ecuador and Senegal matches have shaken the rust off.

    I’d also start Simons or Lang. Neither Bergweijn (ineffective) nor Janssen (works hard, but he seems too static and predictable—the opposing team always knows he will be) looks the answer.

  12. Andrew We can shuffle any one and play and hope..But if you dont change Blind and dumfries you wont reach any where..Then We need 3 at midfeild and we need players with lungs over there..untill forget everything…Blind and dumfries will be kings against qatar and next match they will show their true color

  13. Not so sure about playing Frenkie forward mid, his covering plus out central backs make our defense world class. So I would not touch that part of the game.

    At this stage I would just try Gakpo or Simons in the attacking mid position. Incremental but important changes. I would also give chance to Malacia over Blind for the next match. Not in favour of massive shifts or changes at this stage. It is too risky.

  14. I wish Portugal and Uruguay could be restricted to a 35+ men’s league and then play just 2 v 2 with keepers. Ronaldo and Pepe with Rui Patricio as keeper against Suarez / Cavani and Godin with Muslera in net. It would probably only take about 5 minutes before everyone got tired, stopped running and just started shooting from wherever they are 😀

      1. Actually not even sure that he touched it all! Although he did take credit for it, so that’s something. Meanwhile, Cavani whiffs on a side volley for a rare Uruguay scoring opportunity

    1. I understand your anger and frustration, but the person most upset and aggrieved by that penalty call was Cristiano Ronaldo. Not only did his earlier “goal” get (rightly) ruled a score by Bruno Fernandes since Ronaldo never touched it, but Ronaldo had already been subbed out 10 minutes before the penalty, so Fernandes got to score that goal too and Bruno now is the team’s leading scorer in the tournament! My money says Fernandes gets surprisingly benched going forward until Ronaldo retakes the team scoring lead 😉

  15. Seems not everyone agrees with some of the assessments on Dumfries in this blog 🙂 Man Utd and Chelsea are reported to be interested in making a January offer.

  16. Well, now that all teams have played two full games, the Netherlands have recorded the second fewest shots per match in the World Cup. The only team behind us is Costa Rica, who has had 29% possession so far in the tournament. I hear lots of people saying we shouldn’t change much in terms of formation or personnel, and instead rely on defensive solidarity. But even acknowledging that our attacking talent level is below that of typical Dutch teams, we are still producing far too few shots with the system and line-ups were using.

    Right now the weakest position on the roster for us is forward, and we are playing with only two. Adding a third less-than-mediocre forward to the starting IX seems counterproductive, but like the quantitative / qualitative distinction I was making earlier, if we don’t have quality, we can at least have numbers. Which is why personally I’d prefer reverting to a 4-3-3, or (blasphemy) a 4-2-3-1. That approach, however, would negate the contributions of a number of players who were selected for use in a 5-3-2, such as Dumfries, and would waste an awful lot of pre-tournament time and effort put in by the coaches and players in learning that system. Further, numbers up top don’t really matter if we can’t provide any incisive passing to them. But whether we stick with the 5-3-2 or switch to a 4 back system, who should our midfield distributors be? I’ve been promoting moving Frenkie further up into a more advanced midfield position and I still think that should be considered. I would then play de Roon or Koopmeiner as the deeper, withdrawn holding mid. The question then becomes, who should be the third central mid — We’ve seen Klassen and Berghuis already in that role, neither of whom has been very satisfying. Which leaves Simons and Taylor (you could include Gakpo as well, but that would even further weaken our front line). It seems to me that Simons is the best option, just to see what he can do. If he’s not bringing the creativity / playmaking we’re looking for, then maybe Berghuis gets another shot or bring in Taylor as an 8 and push Frenkie up to a 10 position?

    I just don’t see a lot of solutions in that (1) the front line is lacking in talent and can’t create their own shot, and (2) the midfield is lacking in creative passing that might help a less talented front line generate scoring opportunities. I agree that our backline is fairly solid, but I’m just left wondering how LVG must have envisioned this line-up / system working. It’s clearly not at this point, and at least for purposes of this tournament, I think he’s probably the only one who’s going to be able to innovate an effective solution…

  17. This sounds like the news we were all hoping to hear… :/

    Van Gaal: “Qatar also plays in a 5-3-2 system, then you get systems against each other again. Then it becomes a chess match, which is not always fun to watch. But it is a way to move forward.”

  18. So we’re expecting another friggin borefest? Genius. I had never heard before that when 2 teams play the same system the game is supposed to suck. I really think the meds have messed up his brains. Nuts.

  19. It sounds like our much anticipated lineup changes may not really materialize either

    I’m hearing;

    Dumfries – Timber – van Dijk – Ake – Blind
    Berghuis – de Jong – Klassen
    Gakpo – Memphis


    1. This is a comedy. Why is he so afraid to test a couple of youngsters against one of the weakest teams in the world? I am beginning to think that FDB wasn’t so bad after all.

  20. Upon seeing this prospective lineup, I think I’m starting to figure LVG out. He’s literally trying to re-create the 2014 team, in about the same way that Disney tried to re-create Star Wars, and with predictably similar results. Let me walk you through the behind-the-scenes decision making;

    Goalkeeper — In 2014, we had Cillessen in net. He was tall, blond, and skinny. The guy who looks most like him now is Noppert. Hence, Noppert is the GK. Why not Cillessen again? He didn’t save any penalties vs Argentina. But you know what, Argentina has never scored any penalties against Noppert. Therefore, Noppert Is GK.

    Right Center Back — In 2014, we used de Vrij. When he knocked players down, there was nothing cool LVG could yell. We’re going with Jurrien “Tim-ber”!

    Center Back — In 2014, Ron Vlaar was the linchpin of the back line and even took a penalty. But he’s 37 and retired. Virgil van Dijk is way better than Vlaar, which means if LVG can field essentially an equal team at all other positions, we’ll be way better than we were in 2014!

    Left Center Back — In 2014, Bruno Martins Indi was the left center back. Literally any Dutch defender is better than Bruno Martins Indi, so LVG can go with Ake or de Ligt here, and either option is a vast improvement!

    Right Wing Back — In 2014, we had everyone’s favorite lumbering workhorse, Dirk Kuyt. Denzel Dumfries is a more athletic, less skilled Kuyt. Thus, LVG would say we’re probably about even here.

    Left Wing Back — In 2014, we had 24 year old Daley Blind. Now we have 32 year old Daley Blind. Blind’s game was never about speed or athleticism, so no change needed here! Plus, he has even more experience than before!

    Holding Mid — In 2014, we had de Jong. Now we have… de Jong! What continuity! Special thanks to the de Jong family! With just these players mentioned so far, we are twice as good as we were in 2014! Meaning we will go even further this year!

    Box to Box Mid — In 2014, we used Gini Wijnaldum. He could run, pass, score and defend at about an average level. We have no one like that currently, so we’ll just play roulette at this position — Berghuis, Koopmeiner, etc. — one of them will eventually pan out…. But not Simons — too exciting and unpredictable.

    Attacking Mid — In 2014, we used 30 year old Wesley Sneijder in a roaming attacking role to support our forwards. Davy Klaassen is only 29 but has the exact same hair as Sneijder and also played at Ajax! They’re essentially identical players! Also consider that while Wesley scored 148 goals in his career, including 31 with Oranje, Klaassen has scored 34 goals in his career, including 10 internationally, meaning he is a much less selfish player than Sneijder!

    Forwards — In 2014, we had 31 year old Robin van Persie and 30 year old Arjen Robben. Van Persie was tall (1.83 m). Cody Gakpo is even taller at 1.93 meters and is only 23 — Major improvement there! As for a replacement for Robben, well… LVG will certainly find an adequate substitute for his blistering pace, mazy dribbling, and uncanny ability to create his own shot, along with his 37 international goals, from among Vincent Janssen, Steven Berwijn, Wout Weghorst, Memphis Depay and Luuk de Jong (who could also fill in at holding mid in a pinch).

    If the above predicted starting XI is actually correct, the foregoing thought process can really be the only possible rationale for trotting out such a useless line-up again.

    And back to my earlier analogy to the simply awful Disney Star Wars — At this point, Dutch fans are saying to LVG “Let the past die. Kill it if you have to.” And he’s responding “We’re gonna win not by fighting what we hate, but by saving what we love(d)…” eight years ago…

  21. @ Balkan,
    I’m hearing the same line up as in these past 2 matches. I kept on telling you guys, it is time to start looking forward. Tomorrow we are going to win and Van Gaal is going to think that he has turned things around and we are going to be out in the round of 16th. We found ourselves in the weakest group in the WC and we can’t even perform. Imagine if we were in another group. You can’t make your way to this WC final simply by luck. You must have a vison and so far Van Gaal has none.

    1. jean, I agree with you. I had my doubts after 1st game (let alone after player selection for the WC group) which were cemented after the game vs Ecuador. When I hear what he says in postgame interviews I don’t know if I want to laugh or cry. This dude seems like a circus clown at times. If we happen to win by a respectful score vs Qatar he will probably say “my tactics have again brought us another win. non losing streak under my rein is now at 18. we’re on the way to the final. everything is going as planned” 🙂

  22. My analysis is that “Teams mostly, the so called underdogs won their matches against favorites, when they played tactically, defensively & utilised the few chances they got to score”. The Arg vs saudi, Japan vs Germany are examples. I also feel the defences of teams like Brazil, France also are not that good. So this style of play by the underdogs and dark horses will likely help them to to go far. How the favorites will deal with this is something to be seen.

  23. Hi all, from the last interview with Van Gaal it seems Simons might well start v Qatar.

    I also want to point out that I don’t see Fenkie as the #10. I just would like De Roon next to him against tougher opponents so Frenkie can move up the pitch when he wants without leaving a gap.

    I also would want Virgil to build up better so Frenkie doesn’t need to go and pick up the ball constantly.

Join the Conversation

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.