Belgians see first goalkeeper Orange in Verbruggen after heroics against Villarreal

Belgians see first goalkeeper Orange in Verbruggen after heroics against Villarreal

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In case Ronald Koeman still had any doubts, chances are the Dutch national team coach changed his mind last night.

Bart Verbruggen again excelled under the crossbar at Anderlecht. Mainly thanks to the 20-year-old goalkeeper, the Belgian club survived a true storm from Villarreal in the eighth finals of the Conference League: 0-1.

A reporter from Sporza simply asked, “With this performance, maybe you can become number one in Orange?” The Breda goalkeeper was clearly surprised by that question and blew once on his lips. “Pfoe, I really don’t know that yet. That’s of later concern.”

Verbruggen got an insight into that “later worry” today when at noon Koeman announced his final selection for the European Championship qualifiers with France and Gibraltar: the goalkeeper was called up, as were Jasper Cillessen (NEC) and Mark Flekken (Freiburg).

Heroic save

That Verbruggen kept the zero at Estadio de la Ceramica on Thursday was a minor miracle. Villarreal undertook as many as nine goal attempts between the posts. Soccer statisticians calculated a expected goals-ratio of 3.18.

Verbruggen’s most heroic save was on a rebound from close range from striker Gerard Moreno. “But I had to catch that one too, because I gave the rebound away myself,” the young goalkeeper remained modest. In the frantic closing stages, his penalty box became a veritable pinball machine, but the goalkeeper managed to keep all the balls out of his box in sometimes miraculous fashion.

Reason for UEFA to include Verbruggen in the election for best player of the round of play in the Conference League. Together with AZ striker Jesper Karlsson, among others, he is competing for that honor.

Vertonghen also impressed

“At one point I looked at Bart and said, ‘Wow…,'” Anderlecht captain Jan Vertonghen told reporters. “It was really a storm, a wave of attacks. Every Villarreal attack resulted in at least one shot in the first 20 minutes.”

Coach Brian Riemer of the club from Brussels summed it up simply: “It was really thanks to Bart that we didn’t have to play an extension today.”

Two weeks ago, NOS spoke with Bart Verbruggen about his possible selection for Oranje.

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Kayleigh Williams