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Italy coach Mancini leaves door open for Gianluigi Buffon

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FLORENCE, Italy (AP) Italy coach Roberto Mancini says former captain Gianluigi Buffon will still be considered if he wants to return to the national team.

Buffon retired from international soccer in November after Italy lost a World Cup playoff to Sweden, but he recently returned for friendlies.

[ MORE: Next USMNT-Mexico date set ]

Mancini says “(Buffon) wants to continue playing football … Everyone who will play and will be among the best can be considered for the national team.”

Buffon is expected to bid the national team goodbye for good in another friendly on June 4 against the Netherlands at Allianz Stadium. However, at a news conference last week to announce his departure from Juventus, Buffon insisted he had made the last of his 176 appearances for his country.

UEFA World Cup qualifying: PK saves Italy; More Icelandic magic (video)

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An 81st minute penalty from Daniele De Rossi deprived Spain of a historic victory in Italy, and maintained the hosts’ forever unbeaten streak in World Cup qualifying.

Sergio Ramos came together with Eder for the controversial penalty call, as Eder hit the deck easily when Ramos hastily charged for a deflected ball.

[ MORE: All info on Bob Bradley’s Swans appointment ]

Sevilla striker Vitolo Perez scored a second half goal to give Spain the lead as it searched for its first win in Italy since 1971. The penalty call could make the difference between automatic qualification for the 2018 World Cup and a second-place playoff.

Only the first-place team in each group goes straight to Russia, and the second-place team draws another second-place team in a home-and-home playoff to determine who goes to the World Cup.

Spain was lively on Thursday, pressing high and inching its chances closer and closer to goal. Andres Iniesta was stopped by Buffon, and Spain was moving to the doorstep by the time Gigi Buffon’s snared Gerard Pique’s point-blank header in the 25th minute.

But it was a rare mistake from the longtime Italy goalkeeper that sprung Spain in front. Buffon came charging out to meet a through ball but whiffed on the clearance, allowing Vitolo to easily pass into the a yawning cage. 1-0.

That’s when De Rossi finished the PK chance for his 19th international goal, and from that point on it was all Italy. Ciro Immobile nearly scored twice in the next five minutes, as the game’s angst ratcheted up several notches as well.

Here’s the PK. Eder definitely embellishes, no doubt, but Ramos is there. Fair call?

Austria 2-2 Wales

Joe Allen‘s howitzer was undone by a pair of goals from Stoke City teammate Marko Arnautovic as Wales picked up a point from what should’ve been three thanks to a sloppy early second half. A Kevin Wimmer own goal off a James Chester header accounted for the other Welsh goal.

Ireland 1-0 Georgia

Seamus Coleman‘s 56th minute goal all the Irish need for three points at home.

Iceland 3-2 Finland

Robin Lod and Teemu Pukki scored to remind EURO heroes Iceland just how hard it is to make a major tournament, but Alfred Finnbogason used the 90th minute to show there’s still magic in Iceland’s bag before Ragnar Sigurdsson sent the Laugardalsvöllur into ecstasy with a stoppage time winner.

[ MORE: How will USMNT lineup against Cuba? ]

Turkey 2-2 Ukraine

Hakan Calhanoglu’s 81st minute penalty saves a point for the hosts.

 

Kosovo 0-6 Croatia

Mario Mandzukic hit a first half hat trick as Croatia proved Albert Bunjaki’s fears quite prophetic.

Macedonia 1-2 Israel

Tomer Hemed and Tal Ben Haim help Israel to a 2-0 lead, and the Blue and Whites held on for the win.

Liechtenstein 0-2 Albania

Terek Grozny striker Bekim Balaj scored and the hosts shipped in an own goal in the two-goal loss.

Moldova 0-3 Serbia

Premier League veterans Dusan Tadic and Branislav Ivanovic scored in comfortable win.

 

“I swore to protect you”: Italy’s Buffon pens poetic missive to his goal

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Gianluigi “Gigi” Buffon has a relationship few understand, and it’s with the goal he defends.

The legendary Italian keeper recently set a new Serie A shutout streak for most consecutive minutes without conceding a goal, one that ended at 974 minutes.

[ MORE: Conte quizzed on Chelsea ]

Naturally, he turned to prose. Buffon responded by writing a bit of a love letter to said goal.

BT Sport’s James Horncastle put together a quick translation (we’ve included the original below).

Avevo 12 anni quando ti ho voltato le spalle. Rinnegai il mio passato per garantirti un futuro sicuro. Una scelta di…

Posted by Gianluigi Buffon on Monday, March 21, 2016

Buffon: Juve need “measured aggression” to take down Bayern Munich

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One of the more fascinating parts of the UEFA Champions League — and any sporting competition that pits different national cultures against each other — is observing how massive clubs describe the tasks ahead of them.

Olivier Giroud says Arsenal needs to take their tie to Barcelona. Ivan Rakitic doesn’t want to hear that Barca is heavily favored. And over at the Juve-Bayern match-up, German defender Philipp Lahm is just hoping to “avoid defeat and also score a goal“.

[ MORE: UEFA Champions League preview — Tuesday and Wednesday ]

As for the Italian side, Gianluigi “Gigi” Buffon is talking with the class and grace you’d expect from “The Most Interesting Goalkeeper in the World”.

From Juventus.com:

“Our job tomorrow night is to win and to take a lead into the second leg. If we ensure that the game is tight and well-matched then we can be pleased with our efforts. Given the reputation and standing of both teams, this tie has more of a semi-final feel to it.

“It takes a number of things to win a game as important as this and composure is just one of them. That said, you still need that measured aggression and desire to carry you to any victory.”

He doesn’t always play in Champions League matches, but when he does, he prefers measured aggression.

Juventus has a solid chance to shut down Bayern at Juventus Stadium on Tuesday, and has the midfield capabilities to cause chaos for the Bavarian side.

Update: Gianluigi Buffon to miss Italy clash with England

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Earlier today, the news broke that Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon had injured his ankle during training, and needed tests to determine whether he would be able to start against England.

The reports are in, and the news isn’t good for the azzurri. The ‘keeper, who’s been first-choice for his country for over a decade, will sit out Italy’s first match.

Italy coach Cesare Prandelli first described the injury as a light twist, but after undergoing physiotherapy, the injury was revealed to be more serious than previously thought. There is no word yet on whether Buffon will be available for the game against Costa Rica next Friday, or the final group stage game, against Uruguay, next Tuesday.

In absence of Buffon, Prandelli will deploy Salvatore Sirigu between the sticks. Sirigu has experience at the highest levels, as the starting goalkeeper for Paris Saint-Germain, but he’s also been dealing with injury. His bruised ribs aren’t enough to prompt Italy to turn to Mattia Perin, however. The 21-year-old, who plays for Genoa, has yet to be capped for Italy.

Italy are also without Riccardo Montolivo, who broke his leg in the warm-up match against Ireland and had to be cut from the squad, and Mattia De Sciglio, who was injured in training earlier in the week. Without three of their expected starting XI, will Italy stumble? Or are they strong enough to overcome England?