Wednesday, 16 June 2010

[WC2010] Chiellini rues Buffon injury blow

Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini says the loss of goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon has provided a blow to their World Cup campaign.

Buffon made an early exit from his side's opening match against Paraguay after picking up a herniated disc injury that is set to rule him out for the rest of the group stage.

Cagliari shot-stopper Federico Marchetti came on in place of the 32-year-old in the 1-1 draw at the Green Point Stadium and is now certain to deputise for Sunday's match against New Zealand and their final group game against Slovakia on June 24.

Chiellini admitted losing Buffon, who conceded only twice in the entirety of the last World Cup,represented a major setback, however he insisted he had faith in the Juventus keeper's understudy.

"Gigi has charisma," said the 25-year-old. "He gives strength to others. His saves' worth are like goals from strikers.

"I know what it means for him to play at the World Cup. We miss Gianluigi as a man and we hope he will recover as soon as possible.

"Federico has matured. He proved against Paraguay that he is a good goalkeeper and he is calm and ready to help the team."

The current holders of the World Cup flattered to deceive in their curtain raiser and, with all teams drawing in round one, the group is finely poised going into the next set of matches.

Chiellini is upbeat about his side's prospects, however, and he backed Marcello Lippi's charges to improve as they set about retaining the trophy they won in Germany four years ago.

The Juventus star added: "Italy can do well. We want to score more goals and we will continue to grow as a team.

"Perhaps the draw between New Zealand and Slovakia is a point in our favour but we will have to show a lot of strength to beat New Zealand and finish first of our group in order to avoid facing Holland in the next round."

New Zealand may be considered minnows on the international football stage and Sunday's game in Nelspruit pairs one of the strongest sides in the competition against one of the weakest.

Italy will not be taking their opponents lightly, though, according to their centre-back, who is predicting a testing time against the All Whites.

Ricki Herbert's team came from behind to snatch an unlikely point against Slovakia on Tuesday and ran Italy close in a 4-3 friendly reverse last year, with Chiellini mindful of underestimating the team ranked 79th in the world.

"New Zealand are a very physical side, mentally strong and dangerous in dead-ball situations," said the former Fiorentina man.

"They take few risks and I remember last year they scored two goals against us because of dead-ball situations.

"We need to bring more flair in attack and take more shots. I don't want to think about a draw."

Source: Sky Sports

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