Saturday September 7 2013
Buffon: 'I earn my Italy place'

Gianluigi Buffon was decisive against Bulgaria and can set an Italy record on Tuesday. “I have to earn my place.”

The 1-0 win over Bulgaria was his 135th cap and the goalkeeper will match Fabio Cannavaro’s all-time record of 136 games. To make it even more special, on Tuesday the Azzurri face the Czech Republic at the Juventus Stadium and a victory would secure their World Cup qualification.

“I hope it can be a celebration in Turin for the squad. As for personal matters and records, it can be satisfying, but only if we book our ticket for the World Cup in Brazil,” he told Rai Sport.

Buffon performed at least three stunning saves from point-blank range to beat Bulgaria 1-0 at the Stadio Barbera in Palermo.

“I am there to save chances, so when your work goes well and helps the team you’re even happier. The toughest saves were in the second half and there were two or three tricky situations that I responded to in a fairly convincing way, let’s say.

“I am happy, but I don’t think it was my first! I did some good things in other matches too. While I am in the Nazionale, I have to earn my place.”

It’s a wonderful return to form for Buffon, who after 16 years in the Italy shirt is still the undisputed Number 1.

“The back surgery in 2010 was a very tough moment in which you have to dig deep for resources and motivation to see if you can go back to being what you were. The objective initially was to be healthy, then slowly to find the conviction – above all psychologically – that I still wanted to amaze people.

“At the age of 35, some things can still affect you. I didn’t want to just sit back and passively wait for my career to end in such a disappointing way.

“As long as Italy feel I am able to give my contribution to the team, both on and off the pitch, I will always happily accept any call for my country. If they don’t feel I am needed, then I will accept that with great calm, as I always have done.”

He recently extended his Juventus contract too and has been in Turin for 12 years, including a spell in Serie B.

“Antonio Conte made me feel confident and like someone who even off the field could continue to bring his charisma, character and experience to the side. That’s gratifying. The whole club, from President Andrea Agnelli to Beppe Marotta and Fabio Paratici were very close to me and I thank them for that. I hope I repaid them on the field and they didn’t regret my staying.

“Will I end my career at Juventus? I think so! Unless they get sick of me…”

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