Saturday, September 23, 2017

Spain look strange without Casillas, admits Buffon

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 5 Oct 2016

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Italy veteran Gianluigi Buffon admits it is strange to see a Spain squad without counterpart Iker Casillas involved.

The 35-year-old lost his place as first-choice number one to Manchester United’s David de Gea at Euro 2016, and has been left out of the squad altogether by new head coach Julen Lopetegui for the World Cup qualifiers against Italy and Albania this week.

Casillas – who played in his 1,020th career game for Porto against Nacional last weekend, drawing level with Andoni Zubizarreta as the Spanish goalkeeper with the most number of competitive appearances – has struggled to maintain top form since losing his place in the Real Madrid first team during Jose Mourinho’s final season in charge.

And Buffon, who has 163 Italy caps and will be 40 by the time the World Cup in Russia gets underway in 2018, says it is a sign that their illustrious careers are drawing to a close.

“It does seem strange,” he told a news conference when asked about Casillas’ omission. “It’s a sign that we’re reaching our sell-by date.

“We’re reaching the end of our careers, which is normal. I’m going to enjoy taking part in it as long as I can. I don’t want any regrets and I feel I can still improve.”

Buffon was part of the Italy side that beat Spain 2-0 in the second round of Euro 2016, and the Juventus man wants his team-mates to reproduce the level of passion they displayed when they meet in Turin for Thursday’s clash.

“I don’t have a clear memory of the Euro 2016 meeting – I don’t have the mental clarity yet to look at it without the adrenaline,” he said.

“We played in a lively way, as a team who wanted to get the result at all costs. We have to do the same tomorrow. That type of passion and desire is essential.

“That victory must not make us feel arrogant – we need to keep our feet on the ground and remember the humility that helped us win then.

“We are a year and a half off the World Cup, but we have to realise what this game is worth now.”

Buffon hopes that he does not have to face former Juve team-mate Alvaro Morata, though he is wary of the threat posed by Diego Costa, who is expected to lead the line for Spain following strong recent form for Chelsea.

“I’ll be happy to an extent if Alvaro doesn’t play – he always seems to manage to deal the decisive blow in big games,” Buffon said.

“Diego Costa was absent in Paris and [Giorgio] Chiellini will be missing, but there are another 10 players in each team.”

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