When fans of gli azzurri hear the words “Gigi Buffon injury,” icy shivers travel up and down their spine. The goalkeeper has been with the Italian national team since 1997, becoming first choice in 2002 and was between the sticks when they lifted the World Cup in 2006. The current captain is so revered that his nickname is “San Gigi.”
In 2006, Buffon conceded just two goals, keeping five clean sheets during the tournament. But in 2010, he suffered injury and was replaced during halftime of Italy’s first match. The azzurri went on to finish last in their group.
In other words, fans of Italy really, really don’t want Gianluigi Buffon injured.
They’ll be waiting with baited breath throughout the day. Buffon twisted his ankle in training, and is currently undergoing tests to determine if he’ll miss out on the match against England. While the injury at first seemed slight, there are now fears he has done damage to his knee as well.
In absence of San Gigi, Italy have two viable alternatives. Salvatore Sirigu moved from Palermo to Paris Saint-Germain in 2011, and has been solid for the French champions ever since. Also available is Mattia Perin who, at age 21, appears the heir apparent to Buffon’s gloves. But his youth will likely go against him and, should Buffon not be available, it’s almost certain Sirigu will start.
Italy fans will be hoping it doesn’t come to that. Group D, with England, Uruguay and Costa Rica, certainly looks much stronger than the group they were drawn into in South Africa. The loss of their first-choice goalkeeper – and captain, the man that marshalls the not-always-airtight defense – could be devastating.