Hard luck for Azzurri but Buffon matches mark

Gianluigi Buffon
Gianluigi Buffon

MILAN • Gianluigi Buffon earned a European record-equalling 167th cap, as Italy played out a goal-less friendly draw with their Euro 2016 quarter-final tormentors Germany in Milan on Tuesday.

The 38-year-old Juventus custodian, who made his Italy debut in 1997, is now level with retired Spain legend and fellow goalkeeper Iker Casillas.

Although Buffon is just 17 behind world record-holder Ahmed Hassan of Egypt (184), the appearance of AC Milan's Gianluigi Donnarumma for a more positive second half was a reminder that retirement may not be too far off.

  • 167 

  • Number of caps Azzurri custodian Gianluigi Buffon has. He is the most-capped Italian football player.

Hosting Germany just four months after a dramatic penalty shoot-out defeat ended their Euro 2016 hopes in Bordeaux, Italy were looking to end their three-game winless streak against the world champions.

But the hosts failed to transform a promising finish to the game into a win, Torino striker Andrea Belotti notably hitting the upright late on.

"We were facing the world champions and gave very little away," said Italy coach Giampiero Ventura, who is in his sixth match in charge after taking over Antonio Conte.

"Apart from hitting the post, we had four or five situations that we could have done better with.

"The way we have approached matches, our attitude and our reading of situations have been positive. The future is much rosier than anyone could have thought."

The 68-year-old has a good reputation for developing young players and intends to put that ability to good use as he rebuilds the team.

He has already given debuts to defenders Daniele Rugani, 22, and Alessio Romagnoli, 21, who played alongside Leonardo Bonucci in a three-man back-line against the Germans.

Other debutants under Ventura have included 17-year-old Donnarumma and right-back Davide Zappacosta, plus Belotti himself.

Like Ventura, Germany coach Joachim Low has one eye on the future and made several changes to his established starting line-up.

By the end, he was largely happy with the European Championship semi-finalists' performance.

"It was a good and important result for us, especially our young players," he said.

"We can be totally satisfied, even though we could have tightened up a little in defence."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 17, 2016, with the headline 'Hard luck for Azzurri but Buffon matches mark'. Print Edition | Subscribe