Italy’s Buffon angry with finish vs. Germany

Gianluigi Buffon is set to play in his fifth World Cup.


WARSAW, Poland — If there’s anyone still wondering what Italy’s intentions are at this European Championship, they need look no farther than Gianluigi Buffon’s angry reaction after the Azzurri’s semifinal win over Germany.

While his teammates celebrated, Buffon could not look past the way Italy allowed a penalty kick in injury time of a 2-1 win, plus a few other chances for Germany that could have sent the match to extra time.

"I don’t celebrate second place," Buffon said after Thursday’s match. "I was angry, because we should have avoided those last five minutes of sufferance. We need to be mature. Football is a game, but when you reach the semifinals of a European Championship it’s not a game any more."

One of the pillars of Italy’s 2006 World Cup victory, Buffon can add another trophy with a win over Spain in Sunday’s final, which will mark his 120th appearance in the Azzurri shirt.

With more than a decade as the Azzurri’s starting goalkeeper, Buffon’s experience and talent has been evident throughout this tournament — especially in the last two matches.

Against England in the quarterfinals, his reflex save to deny Glen Johnson five minutes in set the tone for the match. He later saved Ashley Cole’s spot kick in the penalty shootout, setting up Alessandro Diamanti’s winning strike.

Against Germany, Buffon swatted away a long shot from Sami Khedira a minute before Mario Balotelli doubled the lead in the first half, then leaped to push a free kick from Marco Reus off the bar just after the hour mark.

However, as Italy sat back and attempted to preserve its lead, the Azzurri defence began to struggle and Federico Balzaretti used his arm to block a shot from Miroslav Klose, setting up Mesut Oezil’s penalty with a few minutes remaining in extra time.

"If by luck it got to 2-2, who knows, we could have lost the match on penalties," Buffon said. "We still need to improve. There are young players who need to learn this. You can’t play with fire."

Buffon came under attack after it was revealed the week before Italy departed for the tournament that he made large payments to the owner of a tobacco shop in Parma that is also a betting parlour.

While he has not been charged with any wrongdoing, the revelations shook the Azzurri camp, as defender Domenico Criscito was almost simultaneously cut from the squad after being placed under investigation for match-fixing.

"Coming here to Poland and contemplating playing a semifinal was unthinkable," Buffon wrote on his Facebook page before the Germany match. "But we believed, we wanted it and every sacrifice was made in view of pursuing our objective."

At 34, Buffon helped lead Juventus to the Serie A title last month, the club’s first title since before the 2006 match-fixing scandal relegated the team to Serie B.

"As a small child I dreamed of becoming a footballer, as a kid I dreamed of becoming the national team and Juventus goalkeeper. At about 20 I wanted to win the scudetto (Serie A title), at 25 the Champions League and the World Cup and at 30 win the scudetto with Juve again and the Euros," Buffon wrote. "I’ve reached most of the goals I’ve set for myself, although there’s still something missing…"

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