Hong Kong’s goalkeeper threw down the gauntlet to four-time world player of the year Lionel Messi Monday, declaring he was “very confident” he could stop any penalties by the Barcelona icon at a friendly in the Chinese city.
His team’s ranking of 164th in the world notwithstanding, Yapp Hung-Fai drew laughter as he challenged the Argentinian player, who missed a first-half penalty against Brazil during a friendly in Beijing on Saturday.
It was his second penalty miss in two weeks after he also miscued one for his club last month against Levante.
“I am very confident I could save a Messi penalty because I saw him miss in Brazil,” Yapp, leaning forward and grinning, told a press conference at the Hong Kong Stadium. Messi was not present.
“I would have full confidence I could save it,” the 24-year-old, widely regarded as one of the best goalkeepers in Hong Kong, declared.
Hong Kong coach Kim Pan-gon was slightly more circumspect, saying that how to stop Messi was a question for defenders the world over – but that his side “should not fear” meeting Argentina on the pitch.
Hong Kong take on the mighty World Cup finalists Argentina on Tuesday in an exhibition game marking the Hong Kong Football Association’s centennial celebrations.
Argentina manager Gerardo Martino told reporters his side’s 2-0 loss against Brazil on Saturday would not affect their performance on Tuesday.
Neither would Hong Kong’s low world ranking, he added, vowing his team would play their best in the exhibition game.
The long journey halfway across the world to Asia had not affected Messi or the rest of the team’s ability to play, he said.
“I will confirm the starting line-up after training tonight,” he said, without revealing how long he might play Messi for.
Asked how Argentina were bouncing back from their World Cup final loss to Germany earlier in the year, Martino said the team was focused on the road to Russia in 2018.
“No one knows what will happen in the next four years,” he said.
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