Gianluigi Buffon returned to the scene of the 2006 World Cup semi-final with faith in this new generation and himself. “I felt very secure.”
The shot-stopper was making his first international appearance since June and was the only remaining player from that legendary victory in Dortmund, as Daniele De Rossi was suspended for that tie.
“It's great to be back. I didn't need to bring the spirit of 2006 to my teammates,” he said of tonight's 1-1 draw with Germany.
“Aside from the symbolic issue of wearing the captain's armband, there are many different leaders of this side and everyone feels that they would do anything for Italy. Managing to take away a draw in Germany with all the Italian emigrants in the stands was a wonderful feeling.
“I must be honest, I felt very secure. Very secure. Clearly public opinion has been focused on every single error I make, but I accept that and at the age of 33 have done something good in my career. If I'm physically fit, then I feel confident of my abilities.
“When someone is out for seven months, he can get a clearance or some timing wrong. Everyone expects a lot from me, but I think I did my job well tonight.”
Buffon was also impressed with the overall performance of the Azzurri, who continue to undergo experiments under Cesare Prandelli.
“I saw signs of a real team tonight and for a few games that hadn't been the case. I think the Coach is also helping us to find a confidence that we had lost due to bad results.
“We are slowly gelling a group of young players who are about to make the step up in their career. It's up to them to prove they are champions and, if they make that step up, then we'll be a fine national team. I saw signs of that tonight.
“It's difficult to work as a unit when you rarely train together, but tonight I saw that all XI players on the field moved as one and did the same things. That's not easy.
“The Coach gave us some useful pointers after about 20 minutes and we put more pressure on Germany, forcing them into making mistakes. He also said to find a through ball to the players between the lines, whether Antonio Cassano or Giuseppe Rossi, and to change flank quickly to confuse the defenders.”
When asked what was his favourite save of the night, Buffon looked to Miroslav Klose.
“Straight after their goal I came out towards him and he tried to toe-poke it to anticipate my movement, but I got my leg out quickly to stop it.”