Saturday June 9 2012
Buffon: 'Balotelli is pure talent'

Gianluigi Buffon says Italy have “come here to amaze” and can rely on “pure talent” Mario Balotelli in tomorrow’s opener against Spain.

The Azzurri faced La Roja in Euro 2008 and went out on penalties in probably the toughest match the eventual winners had.

“Our last meeting with Spain still stings a little, but it’s also true in that game the Spaniards legitimised the supremacy they went on to have in the competition,” said the goalkeeper in today’s press conference.

“We’re proud of the fact in their best moment of form we managed to create a few problems for them.

“We have come here to amaze. Within us and within me there is great belief, but we’ve got to wait before we can know where it’ll take us.

“Spain have so much belief that they don’t fear anyone. They will respect us, as they do every opponent, but the strongest team almost always wins. Spain are the strongest, but every now and then in football the odds are upset.”

Unlike previous major tournaments, Italy can count on both Antonio Cassano and Manchester City wild child Balotelli.

“Mario is one of those pure talents who can let you win a match,” noted Buffon.

“He has always behaved diligently with us. He’s 22 years old, so it’s only right that in order to grow he must be allowed to make mistakes.

“The important thing is that he learns from that experience of getting it wrong.

“I think it’s wonderful to be able to look back and realise I’ve been wearing the Italy shirt since 1997. The situation our football is going through right now certainly doesn’t help us to focus, but for players with the experience many of us have, it can also be a good motivational tool.”