Buf­fon reaches land­mark as Ger­many hold Italy

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

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

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

Al­though Buf­fon is now just 17 be­hind world record-holder Ahmed Has­san of Eg­pyt (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.

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.

“Apart from hit­ting the post, we had four or five sit­u­a­tions that we could have done bet­ter with.” Like Ven­tura, Ger­many boss Joachim Loew has one eye on the fu­ture and made sev­eral changes to his es­tab­lished start­ing line-up. By the end, he was largely happy with their 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.” Ju­ven­tus mid­fielder Sami Khedira and Arse­nal’s Me­sut Ozil were both rested, and reg­u­lar skip­per and goal­keeper Manuel Neuer was out with a virus, hand­ing Bernd Leno the gloves for the night.

Buf­fon had to be alert to thwart Thomas Mueller as he chased a ball over the top and the Ju­ven­tus ‘keeper was also grate­ful to Da­vide Zap­pa­costa for pro­duc­ing a timely block after Leon Goret­zka’s flick sat up nicely for Mueller to un­leash a first-time drive.

Don­narumma, just 17, re­placed Buf­fon to warm ap­plause for the start of the sec­ond half, claim­ing only his sec­ond cap after mak­ing his de­but against France in Septem­ber.

Italy threat­ened when Belotti drilled a high shot wide of post and bar after find­ing space from 20 yards out. Belotti and Ciro Im­mo­bile, who com­bined have scored seven of Italy’s last nine goals, were fi­nally be­gin­ning to gel.

But the hosts saw claims for a penalty waved away after Belotti squeezed be­tween Shko­dran Mustafi and Jonathan Tah be­fore tum­bling in the area.

Ger­many brought on Serge Gnabry, who hit a hat-trick on his de­but in a 8-0 rout of San Marino last Fri­day, for Goret­zka while Mueller made way for Kevin Vol­land.

And Vol­land had the ball in the net when he flicked Joshua Kim­mich’s drive across goal past Don­narumma, only to be ruled offside. Italy en­joyed a pos­i­tive fin­ish, but failed to breach the Ger­many goal.

Sub­sti­tute Fed­erico Bernarde­schi should have done bet­ter than shoot tamely at Leno and Lazio striker Im­mo­bile curled a shot wide after be­ing set up by Belotti. The Torino for­ward could have nicked the win late on, but he saw his low an­gled strike come off the base of the far up­right with Leno beaten.

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