Gianluigi Buffon says quarter-finals or bust for Italy’s World Cup

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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.

AC Milan completes signing of forward Kalinic

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MILAN (AP) Big-spending AC Milan has signed another player, completing the transfer of Croatia forward Nikola Kalinic from Fiorentina.

In a brief statement on Tuesday, Milan said it signed Kalinic “on a loan deal with obligation to buy.”

Kalinic has signed a four-year contract through to June 30, 2021.

Milan has been in negotiations with Fiorentina for the 29-year-old Kalinic for a while, and he missed training last week as he attempted to push through the move.

Milan, which was bought by a Chinese-led consortium in April, has spent more than 200 million euros ($234 million) in the offseason, signing Leonardo Bonucci, Andre Silva, Ricardo Rodriguez, Franck Kessie, Andrea Conti, Hakan Calhanoglu, Lucas Biglia and Mateo Musacchio.

Alan Shearer has a message for Wayne Rooney

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Alan Shearer finally has a friend.

On Monday Wayne Rooney scored in Everton’s 1-1 draw at Manchester City (see in the video above) and he became just the second-player in history to reach 200 goals in the Premier League.

Rooney, 31, still has some way to go to catch Shearer’s all-time record of 260 goals in the PL but the former Manchester United striker has a few more years left in the tank to try and get as close as he can.

Take a look at the video below as Shearer (or, Mary Poppins to Newcastle fans) delivers a message to Rooney.

What’s next for Julian Green, and what’s gone wrong?

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Julian Green will have a new team again soon, in all likelihood.

A Stuttgart publication says Green is on the transfer market this month, just eight months after moving from Bayern Munich to the then-2.Bundesliga side for less than $500,000.

Now 22, Green is three and a half years removed from Jurgen Klinsmann’s long campaign to get him into a USMNT shirt. It’s been a little less time since he scored in extra time against Belgium in the World Cup, but also less than a year since he scored goals in consecutive USMNT matches. That shouldn’t be overlooked.

[ MORE: Man City 1-1 Everton | 3 things ]

Green scored one goal in 10 appearances for Stuttgart, who was promoted to the Bundesliga at the end of last season. He fell out of favor there, but was far from poor. Green completed 87 percent of his passes and averaged 1.3 dribbles per game (only four teammates had more, though 10 matches is a smaller sample size).

Before that, he spent parts of three seasons with Bayern Munich and made just four appearances, taking a loan to Hamburg in 2014-15 that saw him banished to Hamburg II after just five appearances.

What gives? Whether attitude or skill, Green has a lot of work to do to get back to a level where he’s a reasonable USMNT call-up (Green has a respectable three goals in eight call-ups, netting against Cuba and New Zealand in Oct. 2016). Still, it’s far from over for Green at 22.

There are legit questions here, as the list of not high-profile players Bayern Munich has used in its senior team at a young age and blossomed elsewhere isn’t necessarily impressive (at least relatively speaking). Nils Petersen, Thomas Kraft, and Sandro Wagner are exceptions to the rule. Better put: Bayern has a really good idea what it’s doing when it lets young players walk, and it begs discussion on the best path for Green.

It seems likely he could get a move to another 2.Bundesliga club, and there’s an outside shot he could get a look in the top flight. It would be interesting to know where the interest lies abroad. Would it be hard to acquire a work permit for France or Spain (England seems a hard sell)? Could a move to a free-flowing Eredivisie club work?

Obviously Major League Soccer clubs would welcome his talent and it’s difficult to imagine he wouldn’t be a useful piece in the United States’ top tier, even if on a short-term move as he looks to regain confidence. Would Green see it as below him?

Arsenal’s Wilshere sent-off after brawling in U-23 match vs. Man City

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Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere isn’t standing around waiting for his next team, he’s fighting.

Period.

Wilshere got into with several members of Manchester City’s U-23 side in a match on Monday, with the English midfielder taking exception to a hockey-style hip check from City’s Matthew Smith.

[ MORE: Man City 1-1 Everton | 3 things ]

Shoving the 17-year-old Smith, Wilshere saw the City man take a tumble and stay prone. Still riled up, Wilshere tangled with City’s Tyreke Wilson.

Wilshere and Wilson were sent off.

Given his injury history, we’re not surprised Wilshere took exception to a hard and needless foul in a U-23 match.

The Arsenal man has been linked with moves to Newcastle, West Ham, AC Milan, and Sampdoria, but Arsene Wenger wants to keep Wilshere at the Emirates Stadium.