Gigi Buffon believes Cesare Prandelli’s World Cup picks were “deserved” and hopes Italy can excel as underdogs.
The goalkeeper was interviewed by Il Sole 24 Ore and Sky Sport Italia at the Palasport di Verbania this evening.
“In the last four years we built something important that brought many fans back to the Nazionale and increased our sense of belonging,” said Buffon.
“Italy are never the favourites going into a major tournament, but history teaches us that as underdogs Italy have always been able to find their role as a protagonist. We always want to amaze and this year is no different.
“Prandelli has created an ideal mix, so I think the call-ups are right and deserved. The Coach looked at the Serie A performances to find the 30 names.
“As far as I am concerned, I think Antonio Cassano’s call-up was deserved. We’ll see if this mix proves to be a winning one, but it’s only normal when there are some who are unhappy after such a large group of talents is cut down to just 30.
“I take this opportunity to send thanks to all the lads, like Alessandro Diamanti, Emanuele Giaccherini, Alberto Gilardino and Domenico Criscito, who aren’t here and proved themselves to be great men during their time with the Azzurri.”
The World Cup winner looked back over his lengthy Azzurri career and picked some of his favourites.
“The 2006 semi-final against Germany was very important, as there was a real sense of payback. There were so many Italian immigrants in Germany who wanted this victory and throughout the tournament that sensation was palpable.
“The match I remember with the most disappointment was against South Korea in 2002. At that time they were still using the Golden Goal and it was shocking to be eliminated that way.
“In all these years of my career, I’ve been fortunate enough to meet splendid people. The person I cultivated the greatest friendship with is Alex Del Piero. We had unforgettable moments together, both good and bad.”
Buffon is seen as a role model, as captain of Italy and Juventus, so commented on the state of the sport today in Italy.
“Football is the national sport because it is part of our culture and will continue to be passed on from father to son. It is an economic sport and the one that brings the most people together. For children there is nothing easier than to play football together in any place.
“However, often too much expectation from parents takes children away from the beauty of this sport. I think kids should always try to face off in a fair and real way, respecting the rules. That helps you to grow every day in life as well as on the field.”
Buffon comes from a sporting family, but not a footballing one.
“From the moment I made my debut, I was the black sheep of the family! My parents were international athletics stars, my sisters play volleyball for Italy. Fortunately I arrived in the Nazionale too.
“During the 1990 World Cup I became very passionate about football and the Cameroon goalkeeper N’Kono was my absolute hero. Thanks to my father I became a goalkeeper. By the age of 13 I’d played in every role and he advised me to try going between the posts. From that moment on I never moved from the box.”