Buffon to miss England showdown
Italy goalkeeper and captain Gianluigi Buffon will miss his side's opening World Cup Group D match against England in Manaus tonight.
Buffon twisted his ankle in Friday's training session and, though coach Cesare Prandelli had been confident he would be fit for the clash, the Italian confirmed on Twitter that he would not recover in time for the (11.00pm Irish time) kick-off.
Buffon tweeted (google translated): "Hello everyone ... life is beautiful and I am still in your debt .... it will not be a game skipped or missed another world to make me change my mind!"
"Then there are many ways to be important, even if you are not the protagonist in the field ... so ... great strength ... Salvatore magical power guys ... FORZA ITALY, my love!"
Newspapers Gazzetta dello Sport and Corrierre dello Sport said Paris St Germain stopper Salvatore Sirigu would take Buffon's place in the starting lineup.
"He twisted his ankle very lightly," Prandelli had said of the 36-year-old Juventus man on Friday. "It was a very, very light ankle twist.
"He is receiving therapy at the moment, but it is nothing serious."
Buffon's absence will be a big blow to an Italy side already with full-back Mattia de Sciglio through injury.
It is hardly the ideal preparation for a match against an England side which Prandelli knows has the ability to hurt them on the attack.
"England have personality and psychological strength," he said. "They are very good at running, they are a fast team.
"The attackers have technical skills and are able to use the space available to them in the best way, so we will have to be very careful and we will have to try to control the midfield. That is going to be the key."
Prandelli, like England counterpart Roy Hodgson earlier on Friday evening, downplayed issues surrounding the pitch in Manaus.
Images emerged in the days leading up to Saturday's encounter that showed the surface to be in a shocking state, with over-fertilisation making the grass dry and led to brown patches.
Some of those areas appeared to be spray painted over on Thursday but, having trained on the Arena Amazonia surface for more than an hour, Prandelli had no concerns.
"The turf that had been described to me was in a very bad condition, but it is actually in very good condition," he said.
"It is not exceptional, but it is certainly good. As regards to the system of play I am going to use, it is always good to have a few lingering doubts on the night before because up until they very last minute the players must feel that they are still competing for a place on the squad.
"We don't want to give any competitive advantage to anybody."