Tag: Equador

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!”

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NL – Ecuador Running Commentary

Guys, we will give this a try. Live commentary from yours truly.

Oranje to start with three changes in the team: Koopmeiners for Berghuis and Klaassen for Janssen. Gakpo will move up to Janssen’s spot up front and Klaassen on 10. Timber replaces De Ligt. Van Gaal opts for muscle in midfield against the strong Equadorians.

I will make some comments during the match while watching and I’ll update after every comment.

The players are coming out. Silly fireworks and dramatic muzak and light effects. Jules Rimet will turn in his grave.

Ok. Ad break.

Virgil is leading the team out.

Ecuador will set up as 5-4-1, it might well become a midfield battle.

1′ Good aggressive start. The pace and intensity need to be good.  Strong tackle from Timber

2′  wayward pass Van Dijk. It’s still assessing and scanning.

5′ 1-0.amazing goal Gakpo. Deep pass by Ake, Bergwijn seems to lose possession, but Klaassen anticipates well, assist to Gakpo and a hard shot in the corner, like a rocket. Great start.

8′ Spell of possession for Ecuador,

10′ Oranje is putting in a good shift, closing down the spaces. Good forward pressure by our defence too.

12′ More possession for Ecuador. Holland still a bit rushed in possession.

14′ Valencia trying it solo. Timber lets it run out of play. Dutch in control even without Frenkie touching the ball often. Lots of possesion at the back. So far so good.

17′ We’re better without the ball. Our build up is sluggish still and looks indecisive. But… 1-0.

18′ Ake is the main forward passer at the moment.

23′ counter by Ecuador after ref gives Dutch throw in to Equador. Cross into the box results in sustained pressure and scary moments in the Dutch box. Good defending on excellent cross by Ecuador. We turn around possession but then immediately are wasteful.

26′ We’re getting too many fouls against us. This time Timber again. We need to be calmer on the ball and keep it in the team for more than 3 touches.

28′ We need to man up now and show leadership. Ecuador is smelling blood.

30′ Excellent dribble De Jong, almost got Gakpo through . Now sustained pressure from the Dutch, resulting a corner.

32′ Koopmeiners is playing well. Frenkie is finding his groove too. But Ecuador loves to counter. Valencia with the rocket on goal and a good safe by Noppert. Corner Ecuador.

34′ Good move from Oranje, deep pass Blind on Klaassen, quick feet by Bergwijn and a deep pass from Dumfries on Gakpo just too heavy.

36′ Noppert rules in the box. Equador still on the hunt, with Gakpo defending now as well.

39′ Bergwijn has done more in 40 minutes than in the full match v Senegal.

42′ Valencia is getting a bit frustrated with his shadow, Jurrien Timber.

44′ This is what I don’t like about Dumfries, he gets the ball in his own half and has space to attack but his pass to Bergwijn isn’t good enough. Not fast enough and a bit behind Bergwijn. That needed a better ball

47′ Free kick Ecuador. Great cross. Don’t think it was a corner, but it’s given. Shot from distance, after the corner, and deflected into the goal. Noppert’s sight was blocked so the goal is not allowed.

Half time. We are leading 1-0, which is great. Quickest goal for the World Cup so far, but the game is not going our way. We look dangerous at times but can’t string more than 3 passes together. Ecuador sees more of the ball and has more proper build up play. We seem to be out of shape, with too many players behind the ball, slow ball circulation and too hasty when trying to find an attack. Klaassen had the assist, yes, but I would like to see a more composed ball player in his place. Taylor maybe. Or Berghuis. Ake is playing really well. Timber has his hands full and Dumfries is good in the duels but wasteful in possession. We need more from Bergwijn too. I think a 4-3-3 fits this opponent better. They play with one striker, why use 3 at the back. Ake is the free man and he does well with his passing but needs to dribble into midfield more. That and crisper, faster passing is what will open up this opponent.

Memphis will come on at some stage in this second half. Maybe for Bergwijn, maybe for Klaassen.

45′ Memphis for Bergwijn.

49′ 1-1 Enner Valencia. Loss of possession in midfield by Timber, who is not where he needs to be. Ecuador uses the gap and shoots a rocket at Noppert who paws it in the path of Valencia. Poor goal to concede.

58′ Holland isn’t playing to their strength. Only one shot on goal and that was the early goal. Sometimes, the early goal isn’t helping. It makes players a bit complacent and it invites the opponent to play without the shackles on.

59′ Oh boy, an amazing shot on goal by Ecuador, hitting the cross bar. The bar is still trembling, as is Noppert.

60′ Dutch is getting bullied off the ball and players start to get agitated. Ecuador is playing better.

63′ Game is end to end and opening up now. Some good moves by Oranje but also the Ecuador counter threat.

65′ Pfff Koopmeiners is constantly open but is ignored, sluggish passing. You can call it patience, but also indecisiveness.

66′ Finally a shot by Oranje, good move to get Koopmeiners to pull the trigger, but he scores a Rugby three-pointer.

What will Van Gaal’s next move be? Lang? Luuk de Jong?

68′ Berghuis is coming on, seemingly. For Klaassen probably.

70′ Yep. Berghuis in. We need more midfield control.

72′ More wasteful game play by Oranje. Not looking good. We can still win this or draw this but the performance will keep Van Gaal (and me) awake at night.

73′ Gakpo on his way in offside position. But misses.

77′ Ref is very whistle happy against us. He sees fouls where there is merely some manly duels.

78′ Weghorst anf De Roon getting ready. Wout for Cody, De Roon for Koopmeiners, most likely. Van Gaal wants the win and sees he needs to do it with plan C. Holland is playing really poor, across the pitch. Dumfries, Timber needs a lot of fouls. Ake, Van Dijk and Blind are ok, the rest are struggling.

80′ Weghorst just gifted the ball to Ecuador allowing them an attack, resulting in a corner. Well done Wout

81′ Wasteful attempt.

85′ Free kick for Ake, halfway Ecuador half. Lets put Wout at work. Wasteful cross by Berghuis.

87′ Valencia is on the floor. Not sure what happened. Valencia being stretchered off. Sad.

90′ Six additional minutes.

91′ Terrible backpass by Ake. Noppert in problems and hitting the ball against the attacker. The ball goes behind for a goal kick. Oranje very wasteful.

93′ It’s all Ecuador, really. We can’t even set up an attack.

94′ Ecuador throw where Oranje deserved it. Ecuador playing to win. One more corner.

95′ No danger. Fizzes out. Holland with a throw. Holland just hits the ball upfield when thet can, hoping for the final whistle.

96′ Game over. 1-1. What a disappointing match this was.

I said Koopmeiners was playing ok. Overall I think he was simply again not quick enough in his handling and thinking. Frenkie played ok defensively but couldn’t add enough in an attacking sense. It seems Koopmeiners is too much the same, in a way and like I said before, plays too much in one pace. Berghuis came on and didn’t do much better to be honest.

I think Van Dijk, Ake, Blind, Frenkie and Gakpo deserve a positive rating for the game. Noppert was good too. Great to see him rule the whole box when crosses come in. Koopmeiners and Klaassen were not good enough. neither were Timber and Dumfries on the right, and Bergwijn and Memphis up front.

We are still in it, but will we win it? Like this? Not a chance. I think we need some firm action. Either, a real confidence booster v Qatar, and/or a system change and/or a change in personnel. Is it ok to ask to see Simons or Lang versus Qatar?

Your comments please? I’m off to bed.

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More Oranje Stats

Football has done a long time without the plethora of stats that seem to dominate other sports, particularly American sports like American Football and Baseball. But stats have crept into the game and are getting more and more important to see patterns and understand how teams play.

It’s relevant to use stats alongside the usual insights, useful to look at your own team and players, and useful to analyse the opponent.

I don’t think Van Gaal and Co (or me for that matter) will go overboard on stats, but it’s a fact that most of our younger players (Danjuma, Malacia, Noa Lang, Frenkie) are all known to be very involved in analysing their own game using the numbers.

These are the stats that FIFA came out with recently from the Senegal game. Interesting indeed.

Two key results: our forwards do not play well together and Daley Blind is the key man for the press.

Steven Bergwijn was on the pitch for 79 minutes and only played the ball to a fellow attacher once! The Ajax forward himself never received the leather once, from a striking partner!! In the fourth minute, Gakpo almost assisted a tap-in for Bergwijn, but the ball was intercepted. There were only four passes between the forwards during the whole game.

From \ To Bergwijn Janssen Gakpo Depay
Bergwijn 1 0 0
Janssen 0 1
Gakpo 0 1 1
Depay 0 0

Another remarkable statistic: Gakpo made 59 runs in order to receive the ball and was only found four times!  One of these four times was the cross by Frenkie, resulting in the 1-0. 30 of the 59 “offers to receive the ball” were runs in behind the Senegal defence and he was more than not ignored, because the team mate with the ball didn’t see the run or didn’t dare to play the ball. The only good thing is that these runs usually result in space for an opponent.

Steven Bergwijn was the quickest Oranje player, with a top speed of 34,6 kilometers/hour.

Player top speed (km/hr)
Steven Bergwijn 34,6
Virgil van Dijk 32,8
Cody Gakpo 32,8
Vincent Janssen 32,7
Matthijs de Ligt 32,7

Yes, Daley Blind was the slowest of the team, but he did have the most sprints of all (59), just behind Denzel Dumfries (60).

Frenkie de Jong had the most kilometers with 11,4 kms with Daley Blind second (11,2 km) and Cody Gakpo third (10,7 km).

Daley Blind was the press king, with 39 press moments and he had the most tackles (5). Frenkie had the most interceptions (2) and re-possessions of the ball (9). Frenkie also had the most passes and the highest pass accuracy and was able to break through an opponent line the most too (16 times).

What does this mean for Van Gaal? Who knows :-).

I think he will use the same eleven vs Equador, with the exception of De Ligt, who will make way for Timber. There is a chance that he rests Daley Blind and will use Malacia against the physically strong South Americans.

Equador is a tough team to beat. In the last 7 matches, they didn’t concede. They’re strong, athletic and resilient. Their coach has a simple philosophy: football is played in blocks. There is High, Midline and Low. Equador will put compact blocks against the way the opponent wants to play and with lots of positional changes and hard work, they will want to wear the opponent down.

Coach Alfaro likes to talk his team up. He plans to defend like Spain does: high up the pitch. And he is proud that he has the youngest squad of the World Cup. Alfaro uses zonal defence, where ever on the pitch and the distance between the players is always very small. There is not much known otherwise, as all public training sessions were cancelled and there is rumour of some key players (among them Valencia) being injured. I think these guys can all play though.

Here you see the aggressive press by the team in yellow vs Qatar

Key for Holland will be the running in behind. Their stern defence likes to push up and the way to deal with it, is by dirty runs. Gakpo did this constantly and I believe Bergwijn and Dumfries will need to do the same. Van Gaal might even consider bringing Klaassen on #10 for this and use Gakpo as forward in place of Janssen.

The offensive strength of Equador is limited. Their forwards play in mediocre teams, Valencia in Turkey, Ibarra in Mexico and Plata at Valladolid, mid tier in Spain. The left side of Equador has the most threats and we might need a more defensive option for Berghuis as the communication between full back and midfielders will be key, for Oranje.

Another aspect is their behaviour when they lose possession. They aggressively want to get the ball back asap and they will use physical strength and duel power to get the ball.

This is the option to run in behind for Bergwijn and Gakpo, as shown by Argentina

As they already have 3 points, I don’t think this will be a game where Equador will want to take the game to us, and play open. I think this Equador will play a bit more compact and deeper than against Qatar and use their counter strength to take us on.

For the Dutch, we need to make sure our passing is crisp and accurate, as we can pass our way through their system, but if we are sloppy, we might get hammered on the counter.

I’d like to see this line up. I think Equador will want to absorb pressure and counter against us. So Janssen can play a role up front. I’d play Koopmeiners for Berghuis and Malacia for Blind. Timber for De Ligt is a non-issue I think.

Do I believe LVG will play like this? I think he’ll probably use Blind instead of Malacia.

Either way, I can see another 2-0 win for us. I hope Bergwijn will score, which will lift him up a bit and who ever scores the other one, I don’t care :-). I hope Memphis, who will get another 30 mins I think.

Tell me your predictions!

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