PORT ELIZABETH: 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 World Cup title.
The 35-year-old defender drew on all of his experience to recover from a 10th-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 minute call when Joris Mathijsen pulled up injured in the warm-up and coach Bert van Marwijk gave the nod to the veteran defender.
"I wasn't nervous," said Ooijer, who had a spell with English Premier League side Blackburn Rovers before returning to PSV Eindhoven.
"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 World Cup finals, but it almost came to a premature end when Japanese referee Yuichi Nishimura ran towards him in the 76th minute of Friday's game brandishing a red card, only to replace it with a yellow.
Ooijer, who could well end up playing in Tuesday's semi-final against the Uruguayans in Cape Town, at least had the time to share a relieved laugh with the Japanese official.
But he set all those ups and downs from the match aside to revel in what he sees as a real possibility of the Dutch burying their record of never winning the World Cup.
Their best finishes remain successive final appearances 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."