Friday 23 March 2018

Buffon confident Italy will go further than England

Italy's Gianluigi Buffon is targeting the quarter-finals as a minimum requirement for their World Cup campaign. Photo: Claudio Villa/Getty Images
Italy's Gianluigi Buffon is targeting the quarter-finals as a minimum requirement for their World Cup campaign. Photo: Claudio Villa/Getty Images

Matt Law

Italy captain Gianluigi Buffon claims his team are better equipped than Group D rivals England to do well at the World Cup finals.

Buffon and Italy face Ireland in London on Saturday as part of their preparations before their World Cup opener against England in Manaus on June 14, and the goalkeeper has targeted the quarter-finals as a minimum requirement.

England manager Roy Hodgson and his players have refused to set tournament targets, other than trying to get out of a group that also includes Uruguay and Costa Rica.

Italy have recent tournament experience of playing in Brazil, having competed in the Confederations Cup last year and finished third.

Buffon (36) said: "At this moment, Italy are the team who can think about going the furthest compared with England and Uruguay – at least at the start of the tournament.

"The favourites are Brazil, Spain, Germany and Argentina. We are slightly further back.

"From the quarter-finals onwards we can say it has been a good World Cup and a positive tournament. But naturally you are never fully satisfied. I don't feel as if I can say today with certainty that we can reach the final.

"I think that our national team has become one that is reliable and that manages to win the matches it should win.

"Sometimes we manage to cause surprises in the games in which we don't start as favourites, giving the opposition some headaches. I'm thinking about Spain, with whom we have drawn twice recently, and Brazil, against whom we lost but played a great match."

England midfielder Jack Wilshere has revealed that Hodgson has a nasty streak with his squad.

Wilshere and the rest of the England players have spoken about how they are benefiting from the more relaxed environment introduced by Hodgson.

But asked whether the England manager has a nasty side, Arsenal midfielder Wilshere responded: "Yeah, he has. He can lose it a little bit, but, at the end of the day, if someone is not doing what he is telling them, he has got every right to do that.

"For me, it's different with England from my club. I work with a French manager at Arsenal and he has got different views to the England staff here.

"To me, Roy is an old-school English manager that I was used to growing up with. I really feel comfortable around him. I grew up working with Steve Bould in the youth team and they are strong and disciplined, and I really enjoy it."

After tomorrow's game against Peru at Wembley, the players have Saturday off, before flying to Miami on Sunday for World Cup warm-up games against Ecuador and Honduras, and travelling on to Brazil. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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