TURIN, Italy — Most Italians remember their team’s victory over Spain in the round of 16 at the European Championship. Not Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon.
The Azzurri captain insists he often doesn’t remember previous matches because of the adrenaline that goes through him on the pitch, and he has urged his teammates to put it to the back of their minds too.
“I only remember that we had a strong match, with a team that wanted the result at any cost,” Buffon said on the eve of Thursday’s World Cup qualifier against Spain.
“We have to have the same attitude tomorrow too, passion, desire and humility, which is fundamental. If in remembering the victory at the Euros instead we go out on the pitch with arrogance and cockiness, it will be the worst mistake we could do … that match is in the past, now there is another to build ourselves a good present and a great future.”
Spain will want to make amends after Italy’s 2-0 victory ended its bid for a third consecutive European title.
Both teams won their opening qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup and while the match in Turin might only be their second in Group G, with only one team qualifying automatically, there is no doubt as to how important it is on the road to Russia.
“Spain will be wounded, but it’s already started on its new cycle — as have we,” Buffon said. “The World Cup is a still a year and a half away, but we have to be aware of the value of this match.”
Many of the matches between the two old foes have centered on their veteran goalkeepers, with Buffon and Iker Casillas regarded as the best in the world for many years.
But Casillas has again not been included in Julen Lopetegui’s second squad since taking over from Vicente del Bosque.
“It will be strange not to see Iker, but it’s also a sign we’re getting to our sell-by date,” laughed Buffon.
“But it’s a source of pride to still be here, with the prospect of becoming the player with the most appearances for their national side.”
Buffon needs four more appearances to move level with Casillas and former Latvia midfielder Vitalijs Astafjevs on 167 caps as the most capped players in European football history.
The 38-year-old Buffon is 21 appearances off Ahmed Hassan’s record for Egypt.
Another member of Italy’s 2006 World Cup winning squad will be recognized for his longevity at the match in Turin, with UEFA awarding Daniele De Rossi a prize for having made more than 100 international appearances.
Last month’s friendly match against France was De Rossi’s 107th for Italy.
This story has been corrected to show that De Rossi’s appearance against France was his 107th for Italy, not his 100th.