Buffon verge of World Cup clean-sheet record

July 8, 2006

Gianluigi Buffon will establish a new mark of excellence if he keeps a clean sheet for the first 63 minutes of tomorrow's World Cup final against France but the goalkeeper admits the record will count for nothing if Italy fail to lift the trophy.

The Juventus star has not conceded a goal for 453 minutes, the second best run in the history of the tournament behind compatriot Walter Zenga, who went an incredible 517 minutes without being beaten at Italia 90.

'Of course I am interested in beating that record but only if it means Italy have not conceded a goal in the final,' he said.

'On Sunday, I want to make my dream come true, win the game and finally touch the World Cup trophy.'

Italy's defence has been as strong as ever at the tournament, with Fabio Cannavaro proving to be a rock for the Azzurri in every game.

There have been moments when Buffon has been called into action, however, and he has been equal to the task.

But Buffon insists there are many redeeming qualities about this Italian side, besides the fact they have only conceded one goal in six games.

The biggest, he says, is the camaraderie.

'The team spirit is the secret for us to have gone so far,' he said. 'Credit has to go to head coach Marcello Lippi who has the tactical quality to bring the best out of the players. He makes every player feel important.'

Despite the distraction of a football scandal back home which has landed the clubs of 13 of the national team squad in a corruption trial, Lippi has turned his players into a group of believers.

It was never more evident than the semi-final win over hosts Germany, who had been roared on by an entire nation and had knocked out one of the tournament favourites, Argentina.

'On May 22, I would have never imagined to have arrived here,' Lippi said. 'Not because I didn't believe in this group but because this is a long tournament and you need strength, quality and luck on your side to remain to the end.

'We have proved so far that we have strength and a united group.'

Lippi is not allowing his players to worry about past results for Italy against France.

Les Bleus beat the Italians on penalties at France 98, and then edged them in the final of Euro 2000.

'With respect to 1998 when we were eliminated on penalties, there's less concern,' said Buffon.

'That time we played in France and it we faced a team that was at its best. With regards to us, we didn't really have the confidence we have now.

'Things have gone for the better for our team. There's more confidence in our ability. I am certain we will not let down our fans and we will fight till the end, even if I cannot promise we will win.'

Some of the France players who came from behind to beat Italy in 2000 will be in action tomorrow night, including Buffon's Juventus team-mate, David Trezeguet.

He has been relegated to the bench after failing to impress in the opening three matches.

'I'm relieved Trezeguet will be on the bench,' said Buffon.

'However, [Thierry] Henry is one of those strikers that you never want to face, but if you want to win a World Cup you have to no choice.'

Buffon is trying to remain on an even keel.

'The day before the game I will be tense, just as I will be the morning of the match,' he said.

'But as soon as I warm up, I will find the serenity.'