Even veteran goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon is scared of Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
The Sweden striker didn’t have a great game against Ireland, but he still managed to turn things around by creating the own-goal that gave his team a 1-1 draw.
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And next on the agenda is a match against Italy on Friday at the European Championship.
“We certainly fear Zlatan Ibrahimovic very much because he belongs to the small group of superstars who can change the fortunes of the teams in which they play,” Buffon said.
“Certainly Sweden isn’t just Ibrahimovic, because they have other good players. But it’s clear that a talent like his, his strength and the belief of being a superstar is something that you don’t see in the other players.”
Buffon and Ibrahimovic played together at Juventus from 2004-06, shortly after the tall Swede scored a spectacular goal against the Italy goalkeeper at Euro 2004.
“I don’t have a great memory of that goal, if I have to be honest, even if I appreciated the technique later because it was an outstanding goal,” Buffon said. “At the time, Zlatan was a talent but was still young so we didn’t know what type of career he would have.”
Little was expected of Italy as it headed into Euro 2016 with an aging team written off by critics and described as one of the worst ever by the media back home.
However, in what the Italian press have called “a miracle,” Italy beat Belgium 2-0 in Group E, managing to keep the world’s second-ranked team in check.
“I have a group of lads who are very focused very determined. But take pride in doing things well,” Italy coach Antonio Conte said. “I am certain that a single match can’t change the attitude of these lads, I’m convinced of that.
“But we haven’t done anything yet,” Conte added. “We haven’t even qualified for the last 16, which is our first aim.”
Traditionally, Italy struggles in the second match at tournaments. The mood was high among the Azzurri when the team beat England in the opening match of the 2014 World Cup, but that swiftly turned to disappointment after losing to Costa Rica.
The last time Italy won its second match was in Euro 2000.
“Historically, especially in the last few tournaments, Italy has always had problems in the second match,” Buffon said. “We’re here to solve that. The start was reassuring, probably even we didn’t expect it.”