Gianluigi Buffon admits he feels “the same emotions and belief” as before Italy’s 2006 World Cup Final, but notes Spain have shown “superiority” over recent years.
“Clearly these are the same emotions and the same belief. Whether it ends the same or not, we just have to wait and see. When you start a certain journey in a tournament at this level, there are evidently many analogies,” said the goalkeeper in his Press conference.
Buffon had noted after starting the group with two 1-1 draws against Spain and Croatia that Italy could not win Euro 2012.
“I said we wouldn’t win because in my view the way Euro 2012 started saw a team that showed its superiority. The only problem is we are facing them tomorrow! At least we’re starting out from 0-0.
“Spain have so many champions, from goalkeepers, defenders and midfielders to strikers, that singling one out as the biggest danger would be a lack of respect to the other players who have been part of this squad for the last glorious six years.
“They have dominated the football world in that time and so I compliment them, but it’s right to face Spain in their best condition, so I hope everyone is ready.”
“I think it is right for the best and most talented to win. Spain have a greater chance of winning, as after four years they have great confidence, belief and individuals.
“Italy have been a surprise, so we hope we can continue surprising to the end.”
Buffon conceded the Nazionale has changed its approach to become the most entertaining and openly attacking side at Euro 2012.
“Despite the fact we won four World Cups, there comes a time when you need the humility and strength to change. The Coach did very well to give us the right direction, otherwise it would not have been easy.”
The pressure on Spain to make history with three major titles in a row, but the shot-stopper doubts that will be damaging.
“I think I’d be happy and probably within me would have more belief if I was facing a Final after winning a World Cup and Euros. These are sensations they have already experienced and that can be a slight advantage.
“Iker Casillas? I think he is a great goalkeeper and I admire him very much. I’m very happy to be here, as a year ago I plummeted down the standings of best goalkeepers in the world, so I hope to be up to the task now.”
Just as in 1982 and 2006, the Azzurri have reached the Final of a major tournament during a scandal back home.
“There is something in the Italian mentality. Quite aside from all the chatter, Italians have a sense of responsibility, respect and love for the shirt that goes beyond any limitation. To raise our flag and make people proud of it is key and we tend to create a group that thinks with a single mind-set. That is our strength.”
Mario Balotelli appears to have found a sense of responsibility within the Italy camp and Buffon explains why.
“Mario played very well, because first of all he is a player who has immense qualities and that is a good start. Secondly, he entered into a group of great champions, both in football and human terms. He also found a Coach like ours who in many ways managed to get the best out of him.
“The credit for Balotelli’s success lies with Mario, because he wanted this and fought for it. A little credit goes to the others too.
“It’s true, I sing the anthem with emotion and trepidation, because I care. Italy are my country, the nation I was born in and where I lost two great-grandfathers in war, so this is the least I can do to show my recognition.”
Buffon was asked whether it was true that a strong Juventus has given Italy a solid foundation to build upon.
“It is useful to have a group of players who already work well together and that can make the Coach’s job easier. They needn’t be Juventus players, but Milan, Inter or any other club too.”
He was also asked why Italian clubs struggle in the Champions League compared to Premier League sides, yet on an international level the Azzurri always out-perform England.
“Having a competitive League does not mean you have competitive players. England have for a few years shown entertaining football at club level, but are also the nation with the most buying power, so they can afford to spend millions on imports.
“This is why I think England – but it happens in Italy and Spain too – no longer feel represented by their League. With the globalisation of football, you struggle. I will also say England are not lucky, as they keep going out on penalties, so that really is a fine line between success and failure.”
Think you know your Italian football? Share your knowledge, tips and comments to win cash prizes in OLBG's tipster competition - £11,000 to be won monthly!