NATAL, Brazil (AP) — It will be nothing new for Italy captain Gianluigi Buffon when the Azzurri face Uruguay on Tuesday with a spot in the second round of the World Cup on the line.
Italy will advance with a win or a draw in the Group D match.
“So it’s really not that bad of a situation,” Buffon said Sunday. “This is the 10th tournament I’m playing with Italy and in 10 tournaments only one time — in last year’s Confederations Cup — were we already qualified by the third match. … So it’s not like much has changed.”
However, Italy is coming off a draining 1-0 loss to Costa Rica, after which many of the Azzurri complained of the heat.
“Of course this time we have to carry the loss to Costa Rica as baggage and that could make it seem tougher than it is,” Buffon said.
The 36-year-old Buffon is only the third player in history to be part of five World Cup squads, along with Germany great Lothar Matthaus and former Mexico goalkeeper Antonio Carbajal. He first went to the tournament back in 1998, but was a second-choice option as goalkeeper behind Gianluca Pagliuca and didn’t play.
Buffon took over the starting position at the 2002 World Cup and was one of the driving forces behind the Azzurri’s run to their fourth title in 2006.
Buffon showed he could still be decisive in the third-place match of last year’s Confederations Cup, when he stopped three penalties in a shootout win over Uruguay. That was after a 2-2 draw in which Edinson Cavani scored both goals for Uruguay.
And Cavani is not even Uruguay’s most dangerous striker, as Luis Suarez showed when he scored both goals in a 2-1 win over England on Thursday.
“Cavani and Suarez are a great attack duo but it’s not like we’re just realizing that now,” Buffon said. “They have confirmed themselves for many years with the national team and individually with their clubs. It’s normal when you face a squad of Uruguay’s caliber that there are quality players.”
Mario Balotelli has spearheaded Italy’s attack for the opening two matches but coach Cesare Prandelli could add Ciro Immobile up front against Uruguay.
Immobile led Serie A with 22 goals for Torino before completing a transfer to Borussia Dortmund, just days before flying to Brazil. But his only action thus far was in the final 17 minutes of the Azzurri’s 2-1 win over England in their opening match.
“I don’t think Mario and Ciro have ever played together,” Buffon said. “It would be something new that would carry all of the associated risks — and benefits.”
Italy will also probably be without key defensive midfielder Daniele De Rossi, which could prompt coach Cesare Prandelli to revert from a four-man defense to the three-man formation employed by three-time Serie A champion Juventus. Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci and Andrea Barzagli — who each play for the Turin club — would fill those places.
“Our coach is always able to find the right balance in situations like this,” Buffon said. “He’s a maestro at that. … We’re definitely going to need a warm heart and a cold head. We can’t throw away our self-confidence for one poor match.”
No matter what happens on Tuesday, it won’t be easy for Italy.
“If we are eliminated after the first round it would be a failure,” Buffon said. “It would be a personal disappointment and nobody would hide from that. But if we advance we’re going to face hostile opponents and that’s where the real problems start.”
Andrew Dampf can be followed at www.twitter.com/asdampf
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