Michael Sohn/AP/Press Association Images
Mind Games

Euro 2012: Buffon not ready to alter prediction

Miguel Delaney is in Kiev finding the Italian captain quite happy to let Spain carry a favourite’s burden.


Just after the Croatia game, in which Italy had again ceded a lead, he was asked whether his team could win the tournament.

It seems so long ago now and his answer would appear to confirm that: he said no.

Today, though, that question was put to Buffon again.

And, surprisingly, his answer wasn’t all that different. There was, however, a heavy caveat.

“I said we wouldn’t win it because, at the start of the tournament and even during it, there was and still is a side that has shown itself to be strong and a level above the rest. We’re playing them tomorrow: Spain. This is our only problem. At least, we will start the game 0-0.


“But, listen, sometimes in sport, what is fair and what is unfair turn out to be the same thing. You’ve always got to think very carefully about what you say. I think the best side, and the best footballing side, should win. Perhaps that’s Spain. They’ve been working in this for four years. They have a lot of trophies.

Italy have been more of a surprise side in this tournament. Let’s hope we can continue to be a surprise side.”

One surprise player, of course, has been Mario Balotelli. Buffon elaborated on what has been a impressive transformation from erratic but talented young star to top-level match-winner.

“Mario’s done very well so far because, first and foremost, he’s got great natural talent and this is a great starting point for him. He’s come into a squad with a lot of star players, not only in football terms but also in general. He’s also come in and worked with a coach like ours who, in a number of different ways, has managed to get the most out of Balotelli. So I think he deserves credit for this because he’s worked hard and wants to achieve. Credit should also go to the rest of the squad.”

Buffon, notably, also repeated his praise for Spain. Without their effort and late goal against Croatia, Italy would not be here at all.

“I wanted to recognise the fact they played their hearts out. Because, often, there’s not enough recognition in football, either on or off the pitch. I wanted to tell them that we had a lot, just like we had for Holland in 2008.”

That result prevented a repeat of history, as Italy avoided being knocked out by a mutually beneficial draw elsewhere.

The big question tomorrow, though, is whether another bit of history will repeat itself instead: will Italy win a tournament after first suffering the turmoil of a scandal. Buffon, at the least, felt there was something in the idea that such difficulties fostered a superior spirit.

“I think there is something unique in the Italian mentality. Beyond all that’s been said, all the rumours you hear, I think Italians have a lot of responsibility, respect and love for the national shirt that goes above and beyond our physical limitations. So we have the opportunity to show just how great our country is. It’s not always easy but we try to find a way to have the most solid squad and that is our strength.”

Euro 2012: Prandelli full of respect for defending champs

Blanc turns down chance to stay on as France manager