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Italy’s old guard in World Cup final stand

Three veteran warriors of Italy’s 2006 World Cup-winning campaign face an inglorious exit if the Azzurri fail to qualify for the tournament for the first time in 60 years.

Italy's old guard in World Cup final stand
Composite: AFP

Italy's old guard face a final stand in Monday's World Cup play-off against Sweden in the San Siro after Gian Piero Ventura's side lost the away leg 1-0.

READ ALSO: Sweden claim advantage with World Cup play-off first leg victory over Italy

Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus)


Photo: AFP

The Italy and Juventus captain is targeting a record sixth World Cup appearance in Russia. He made his international debut as a 19-year-old in October 1997 in the snow of another World Cup play-off against Russia, coming on for the injured Gianluigi Pagliuca, and immediately saved heroically from Dmitri Alenichev and ensured Italy qualified for the following year's World Cup.

Buffon, whose mother was a discus thrower and father a weightlifter, made his Serie A debut with Parma, winning the Italian Cup, the Italian Super Cup and the UEFA Cup before joining Juventus in 2001 and going on to become a club legend with eight Serie A titles with the Turin giants.

At age 39, his statistics are staggering. With a remarkable 627 Italian top-flight appearances he will also will earn his 175th cap against Sweden on Monday. That is 39 more than another 2006 World Cup winner, Fabio Cannavaro, and 63 more than the legendary Dino Zoff. “I don't want to think it's the game of life, but I'm convinced that with the help of the public we will do it,” he insists.

Daniele De Rossi (Roma)

Defensive midfielder De Rossi is going for a fourth World Cup. The 34-year-old has spent his entire senior career with hometown club Roma, whom he joined in 2000, rejecting big money moves away. He scored on his international debut in 2004 in a World Cup qualifying match against Norway and wore Italy's captain's armband for the first time in a 0-0 friendly draw against Iceland in March 2005.

De Rossi overtook the recently-retired Andrea Pirlo in the all-time appearances list when he earned his 117th cap in the first leg of the play-off in the Swedish capital, but Buffon's haul is well out of reach.

“It would be great to be able to play at my fourth World Cup. It's a tournament that no one wants to miss,” said De Rossi. “The stakes are so high that the idea of shedding blood and sweat is appropriate. We must give everything right to the finish.”

Andrea Barzagli (Juventus)

Barzagli has won the World Cup, Bundesliga and six Scudettos, but despite being one of the most decorated defenders of his generation, the 36-year-old often goes under the radar. Barzagli started his career as a midfielder, but was advised by Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri to switch to defence when the pair played together for Pistoiese in the Italian second division.

“I said that if he wanted a different kind of career, he needed to change — he needed to drop back 15 metres,” said Allegri.

Barzagli went on to star for Ascoli, Chievo, Palermo and Wolfsburg before joining Juventus in 2011.

“Andrea is our professor. He's always in the right place at the right time,” says Juventus teammate Giorgio Chiellini. He won his first senior cap in November 2004, in a 1-0 friendly win against Finland under Marcello Lippi. Capped 73 times, it would be his third World Cup after being overlooked by Lippi in 2010.

READ ALSO: Sweden vs Italy: A cultural head-to-head

FOOTBALL

Euro 2020: Concern about virus spread after Italy players’ ‘unauthorised’ victory parade through Rome

Italy’s national football team reportedly insisted on taking an open-top bus tour through Rome to show off their European Championship trophy to crowds of fans - despite city authorities forbidding it amid concern about the spread of coronavirus.

Euro 2020: Concern about virus spread after Italy players' ‘unauthorised’ victory parade through Rome
Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

The team’s bus parade through the city on Monday night following their Euro 2020 triumph “was not authorised”, according to Matteo Piantedosi the head of Rome’s prefettura (the public safety authority).

Thousands of fans packed the streets of central Rome to see the team celebrate their cup win after beating England on penalties in the final.

READ ALSO: ‘Football came home’: Italy celebrates Euro 2020 victory over England

Piantedosi told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera on Wednesday: “We had denied permission to celebrate Italy’s victory in the European Championships on the open bus, but the pact was not respected.”

Piantedosi, who is Rome’s top public security official, said police had “no choice” but to let the parade go ahead after players Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci insisted on it.

Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP

A meeting had been held on Friday with the Italian football federation (FIGC) to discuss plans for the celebrations if Italy won, said Piantedosi.

“I had agreed the line with Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese and Chief of Police Lamberto Giannini,” he said.

“It was clearly explained that [the parade] was not possible. We said we could not authorize it.”

Piantedosi said the Italian football federation (FIGC) initially agreed to hold a “controlled” ceremony in Rome’s central Piazza del Popolo instead of the parade.

After players insisted on the bus tour on Monday however, Piantedosi said, authorities reluctantly let them go ahead due to fears of sparking public disorder.

“At that point we had no choice but to acknowledge the situation and handle it in the best way we could,” he said.

READ ALSO: Covid cases on the rise in Europe once again as WHO warns of Euro 2020 risk

Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

In a statement on Wednesday, the FIGC said it had acted responsibly but decided not to disappoint fans who had come to celebrate with the team.

Footage of large crowds thronging the bus carrying the ‘Azzurri’ and the European Championship trophy through the capital however fuelled concerns about new outbreaks of coronavirus, after Italy’s infection rate began to rise again last week.

The World Health Organization warned earlier this month that crowds and gatherings connected to football matches will fuel a new rise in cases across Europe this summer.

READ ALSO: Delta variant in Italy will be ‘prevalent within 10 days’: health official

Italy’s health minister Roberto Speranza also voiced concerns on Monday about the consequences of people gathering to watch sporting events.

He said the European football championship win was “a great joy after terrible months,” but “even in these moments of national pride we can’t forget that our ‘game’ to defeat Covid is not yet won.”

There are currently minimal health restrictions in place across Italy, however masks are supposed to be worn in crowded public places, including outdoors.

“Footage shows that police were virtually the only ones [in the crowd] wearing masks,” said Piantedosi.

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