Gigi Buffon does not believe England-Italy will go to penalties, but points out the Azzurri “always do well against the big teams.”
This evening the Euro 2012 quarter-final sees these sides go head-to-head in a major tournament for the first time since the 1990 World Cup third place final.
“England have always had great players. They haven’t won much recently, partly due to bad luck and often going out on penalties,” Buffon told the UEFA website.
“They have three or four world class players like John Terry, Ashley Cole, Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard. We respect them and it’ll be a tough test.
“I expect a very balanced game, especially as Italy always adapt to their opponents. We always do well against the big teams, whereas we never win easily against the smaller ones. I think there is a really minimal difference between the sides.”
The English media has focused heavily on the likelihood of this tie going to penalties, while Roy Hodgson’s men practiced spot-kicks in training.
“When there is too much talk about penalties, the game tends to be decided before then. Penalties are part of football and there is merit to be given for winning that way. It takes technique and character to convert them, so it’s really not a lottery.
“For a goalkeeper perhaps it is the only time when he doesn’t have that much responsibility. Joe Hart, along with Manuel Neuer, Hugo Lloris and our own Salvatore Sirigu, is no longer an emerging talent, but someone who is consistent and can become crucial for his team. He deserves praise.”
Buffon has impressed with his full-throated singing of the national anthem before kick-off at Euro 2012.
“I sing with my eyes closed because I feel Italian down to the marrow of my bones. The tricolour, the flag and my nation mean a lot to me.
“I lost two grandfathers in WWI, so I think singing and thinking of them in those moments is a form of respect.”
Think you know your Italian football? Share your knowledge, tips and comments to win cash prizes in OLBG's tipster competition - £5,000 monthly.