Netherlands' Noppert on Messi in World Cup: `He's a human'

DOHA, Qatar (AP) Andries Noppert is ready to face Lionel Messi if the Argentina star takes a penalty kick in Friday's World Cup quarterfinal match.

''He's the same like us. He's a human,'' the Netherlands goalkeeper said Wednesday.

Messi has scored 21 goals in 26 penalty kick attempts for Argentina among his 94 international goals. He converted his spot kick to put Argentina ahead in the opening 2-1 loss to Saudi Arabia, then had his penalty saved by Poland goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny as Argentina won 2-0 to reach the round of 16.

The 6-foot-8 Noppert was released from second-division Dutch club Dordrecht at the end of the 2019-20 season, joined the top league's Go Ahead Eagles in January 2021 and moved to Heerenveen this season.

''It's about the moment,'' Noppert said. ''He can also miss, and we see it in the beginning of this tournament.''

The 28-year-old Noppert was in goal in the opening 2-0 win over Senegal, the second Dutch player to make his international debut at a World Cup and the first since midfielder Dick Schoenaker in 1978.

Noppert has allowed two goals in four matches and saved 15 of 17 shots on target, an 88.2% save percentage that is second-best in the tournament behind Tunisia keeper Aimen Dahmen, who saved nine of 10.

''He has an open personality. He is quite direct and outspoken,'' Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal said through a translator after the opener. ''His quality is he can stop balls and he had to do that three times today, and he did it perfectly.''

If the Netherlands gets past Argentina, the team would face Croatia or Brazil in the semifinals on Tuesday. The next day's semifinal match has the Morocco-Portugal winner playing either England or defending champion France.

Virgil van Dijk, a 31-year-old defender who was a member of the FIFPro world all-star team in 2020 and '21, said the Dutch have to prepare to play not just Messi.

''I'm very cautious, obviously, of what Argentina can bring, because they are a fantastic team. They are fantastic players,'' Van Dijk said. ''So we have to be very good, very good in all departments. We have to prepare well and get ready for that.''

The Netherlands is the best soccer nation never to win a World Cup, losing in the final in 1974, 1978 and 2010. The Dutch were eliminated by Argentina on penalty kicks in the 2014 semifinals, when Messi converted his nation's first attempt of the shootout.

''There is hunger. There is dreams. There's feeling that goes with when you participate in the World Cup,'' Van Dijk said. ''You could be three games away from glory.''


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