The Netherlands prevailed over Senegal, courtesy of two last-gasp goals from Cody Gakpo and Davy Klaassen, to open its campaign in the FIFA World Cup on a winning note. But the Dutch had goalkeeper Andries Noppert to thank for it.
Noppert, making his international debut at the World Cup at 28, made three crucial saves and kept a clean sheet to deny Senegal, which dominated the possession for most of the match.
Match Highlights: Netherlands vs Senegal
His dazzling debut meant the Netherlands, which failed to make the cut for Russia 2018, made a winning return to the grandest stage in international football.
But who is Noppert?
Noppert is the tallest player in Qatar 2022. He stands at 2.03m.
The debut at Al Thumama Stadium was a remarkable turnaround in his career. He did not have any club to play for nearly two years. The situation forced his family and wife to convince him to give up on football and join the police force for a sustainable earning option.
But Noppert did not give up. Born and brought up in Heerenveen, Noppert signed up for local Eredivisie side Heerenveen. However, he did not play a game for them and left for NAC Breda in 2014. He made just six league appearances in four years for the Dutch outfit.
Noppert then joined the Serie B team Foggia. But as ill luck would have it, the club was relegated from the Italian second tier and then refused entry into Serie C. Foggia was eventually made defunct at the end of the 2018-19 season.
Noppert returned home and joined second-tier side FC Dordrecht, made two appearances before being released after just one season. He was without a club from June 2020 to July 2021. At this point, his wife insisted on him retiring from football and joining the police force.
But Noppert did not let his dream slip away. Go Ahead Eagles, which had just earned a promotion to the Eredivisie, was without a goalkeeper. It signed Noppert, who made full use of the opportunity. Playing in the premier division for the first time in four years, Noppert saved Go Ahead Eagles from regelation.
A stellar season eventually saw him join his boyhood club Heerenveen again as his career came full circle.
In September this year, Louis van Gaal called him up to join the national camp as a backup for experienced keeper Remko Pasveer. Noppert, who did not play a single game in Netherlands’ Qatar World Cup qualifiers, started against Senegal in Doha. A man with no prior international experience, with just 52 appearances in club football, prevented Boulaye Dia, Idrissa Gueye and Youssouf Sabaly from scoring. Now, Noppert would hope that on the back of this performance, he would continue to be van Gaal’s first-choice goalkeeper in the World Cup.