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Buffon wary of setting the bar too high

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22 Jun 2012 19:49:49

Buffon wary of setting the bar too high

Gianluigi Buffon said it would be presumptuous to claim Italy could win Euro 2012 but said Friday the Azzurri are capable of matching anyone.

The 34-year-old 2006 World Cup winning goalkeeper will lead Italy out in their quarter-final against England in Kiev on Sunday and he says the four-time world champions must improve on their group showings if they are to advance.

Italy began with two 1-1 draws against world champions Spain and Croatia before a 2-0 victory over Ireland gave them second place in the group to set up the quarter-final with England.

The Italy captain had previously said that winning the whole competition was not on his mind and he stuck to his guns in Friday's press conference here.

"I said before I wasn't thinking of winning it because had I said the opposite I'd have been admitted (to a mental institution)," joked Buffon.

"It would have been presumptuous considering we're up against Spain, who are two spans (of a hand) above everyone else, and Germany, who are one span above the others.

"However, that doesn't mean we would kick-off a beaten team against them."

Italy have not lost in this competition so far but then again, neither have England, who started with a draw against France before beating Sweden and co-hosts Ukraine to top their group.

And Buffon believes that to come out on top against Roy Hodgson's side, Italy are going to have to improve on their previous performances.

"We're in the top eight sides in Europe and we came through a difficult group unbeaten," he added.

"But what we've done so far won't be enough, we'll need more if we're to progress."

It is generally unheard of for Italians to come to a major tournament and not be considered amongst the potential winners but a dire World Cup in South Africa two years ago and a run of three defeats in a row before coming here had done much to dampen expectation.

Added to that was the distracting match-fixing scandal back home, although for many that was a positive omen following Italian victories at the World Cups in 1982 and 2006 right after similar affairs.

For Buffon it is important here to remind the world that this is a team that has a World Cup record bettered only by Brazil.

"We often go through difficult moments in our football but we wanted to make up for the poor showing in South Africa," said the Juventus stopper.

"We're not setting ourselves limits, even though we know we're not the best, we just hope to be on top of the situation."

Buffon recognises that for both teams this is an opportunity to make up for recent failings as whoever progresses will be in the final four, something Italy have not managed since winning the World Cup in 2006 and a feat that has escaped England since the Euros at home 10 years before that.

"I remember England from Italy 90 (when they lost to Italy for third place), from the (1998) World Cup qualifiers and from two friendlies," said Buffon.

"But it will be a great match against them. We have a quality-defect which is we play to the level of those who are worse and those who are better.

"In this case it's 50-50, it will be a very even game and episodes will make the difference.

"Both of us are looking to restore a bit of prestige."


AFP

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