May 28, 2014, 4:13 PM EDT
According to Italian legend Gianluigi Buffon, it’s quater-finals or bust in for the Azzurri in this summer’s World Cup.
“If we get to the quarter-finals or further, it will have been a positive World Cup,” Buffon told reporters.
The Juventus netminder struck a modest tone to his interview on Wednesday, noting that Italy was not on par with the world’s best sides. “We have to recognize the worth of opponents and when you talk about Brazil, Argentina, Spain and Germany, we are half a step or a whole step below them.”
What they lack in talent, however, they make up for in dependability. “We have a mature team which knows its own limitation and, because of this, we are a dependable side who win the matches we are expected to win.”
The 36-year-old’s words underline the traditional nature of Italian soccer, one of a conservative approach and stalwart defense. That approach, however, has morphed into a more dynamic, exciting style under coach Cesare Prandelli, who took over for Marcelo Lippi following a depressing 2010 World Cup where Italy went winless in their three group stage matches.
Just two years into his spell Prandelli brought the Azzurri all the way to the 2012 Euro final, a feat that few could have predicted. After cruising through World Cup qualification with relative ease, the Italians now face a difficult challenge having been placed into Group D alongside Costa Rica, Uruguay and England.
The latter two matches will be the featured ones of the group and ones where Buffon is open to the role of underdog. “Sometimes we manage to cause surprises in the games in which we don’t start as favorites, giving the opposition some headaches,” he admitted.
If it feels like wishful thinking from Buffon that either Uruguay or England will fall prey to this snake-in-the-grass approach, that’s because it is. Despite the assertion of being a step below the top competition, no country will be taking the four-time World Cup champions for granted.
To achieve Gigi’s goal of quarter-finals or bust, Italy must make it out of their group before defeating their Round of 16 opponent from Group C (Colombia, Greece, Ivory Coast and Japan). Italy opens it’s campaign in Brazil against England on June 14th in Manaus.
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