Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon is set to miss the Azzurri‘s Group D opener against England on Saturday after sustaining an ankle injury on Friday night. The 36-year-old was unable to complete Italy’s final training session in Manaus after twisting his ankle.
Manager Cesare Prandelli was originally optimistic about the injury and described it as a “a very, very light ankle twist.” However, reports from Italy now conclude that it was more serious than initially thought and that Buffon will not recover in time to face England.
Buffon missed yesterday’s pre-match press conference, with Prandelli citing a “minor strain.” The Italy captain underwent physiotherapy earlier today but failed to regain full fitness, dealing his team a significant blow ahead of a clinically important match in Group D.
After news broke of the injury, Buffon posted an interesting message to Twitter: “Hello everyone … life is beautiful and I am still in debt to it … neither a game nor a World Cup missed would make me change my mind.
“There are many ways to be important even if you are not a protagonist on the pitch. So come on great Salvatore, come on magic guys, come on Italy, my great love!”
With Buffon ruled out, Paris Saint-Germain goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu - who has just eight caps - is set to start for Italy ahead of 3rd-choice stopper Mattia Perin. The 27-year-old has had a great season with PSG and impressed in Italy’s 0-0 draw against Ireland in a pre-World Cup friendly.
Sirigu has had minor injury problems of his own as of late, with bruised ribs resulting in fitness concerns, however it doesn’t looks to be anything serious and he will most surely get the nod ahead of the uncapped Perin.
Nonetheless, it is no doubt that Buffon’s experience will be missed. The goalkeeper - who has 140 caps for Italy - was a vital aspect of the Azzurri‘s World Cup-winning side in 2006, conceding just two goals throughout the duration of the tournament.
In 2010, however, a back injury saw him ruled out of the World Cup after featuring in their opening match, with the Italians crashing out in the first round.
Andrea Pirlo, who also featured for Italy in the 2006 World Cup and is a linchpin in midfield for the Azurri, is set to wear the captain’s armband in tonight’s match.
In addition to Buffon, left-back Mattia De Sciglio has also been ruled out of Italy’s opener at the Arena Amazonia, dealing a further blow to their defense. In a difficult group containing Italy, England, Uruguay, and Costa Rica, the Three Lions’ attack will be looking to take advantage of these injuries and get an important three points.
At the press conference, Prandelli stated, “England have personality and psychological strength. They are very good at running, they are a fast team.
“The attackers have technical skills and are able to use the space available to them in the best way, so we will have to be very careful and we will have to try to control the midfield. That is going to be the key.”
In response to concerns about the conditions of the Arena Amazonia pitch, Prandelli went on to say, “It is not exceptional, but it is certainly good. As regards to the system of play I am going to use, it is always good to have a few lingering doubts on the night before because up until the very last minute the players must feel that they are still competing for a place on the squad.
“We don’t want to give any competitive advantage to anybody.”