Lionel Messi is “human” and “can miss” penalties, according to the Netherlands goalkeeper Andries Noppert ahead of his team’s clash with Argentina in the World Cup quarter-finals on Friday.
In his fifth World Cup, Messi has scored three times in Qatar to help Argentina to the final eight of the tournament, taking his tally to 94 international goals.
Messi has converted 21 of his 26 penalties in his Argentina career, with one of those failures coming in the 2-0 victory over Poland in La Albiceleste’s last group match in Qatar, though he did score from 12 yards in the shock opening 2-1 defeat to Saudi Arabia.
With Spain and Japan dumped out by penalty shoot-outs in the round of 16, Noppert is ready to take on the challenge if Friday’s game goes the distance and Messi takes a spot-kick.
“He’s the same like us. He’s a human,” Noppert told reporters on Wednesday. “It’s about the moment.
“He can also miss, and we see it in the beginning of this tournament.”
— OnsOranje (@OnsOranje) December 7, 2022
Noppert’s route to becoming the Netherlands’ number one goalkeeper at a World Cup has been an unconventional one, having been released from second-tier Dutch side Dordrecht just two years ago.
He considered retiring from football altogether, though was eventually signed by Eredivisie side Go Ahead Eagles in early 2021. Noppert found success there, before joining Heerenveen in May of this year.
His form was enough to earn him a call-up to the Netherlands’ squad for Qatar, and Noppert became just the second Oranje player to make his national team debut at a World Cup in their opening 2-0 victory over Senegal.
With such a meteoric rise, Noppert spoke of his pride ahead of the biggest game of his career, while crediting coach Louis van Gaal for the role he played in the 28-year-old’s inclusion.
“When you are a little boy you dream of being at a World Cup,” Noppert added. “When you see my career, you put that dream away. But I kept fighting for it.
“There is only one national coach who could have brought me here and that is our national coach [Van Gaal].
“I am proud to be here and I have to keep working hard. That is the most important thing.”