SOCCERLY.COM: Italian legend Gianluigi Buffon has already thrown down the gauntlet to Group D rivals by claiming that Italy are definitely the top team in the group. Group D has been labeled the World Cup Group of Death featuring three former winners of the title: Italy, England and Uruguay along with Costa Rica.
The 36-year goalkeeper, with an impressive 139 caps for the Azzuri, was blunt in his assessment of his own side's chances of qualifying from the group stage: “At this moment, Italy are the team who can think about going the furthest compared with England and Uruguay."
The Juventus legend went on to admit that the Cesare Prandelli 's squad is aiming for nothing less than the quarterfinals stage but that other nations are clearly stronger favorites than the Italians.
“From the quarter-finals onwards we can say it has been a good World Cup and a positive tournament. But naturally you are never fully satisfied," Buffon said. "I don’t feel as if I can say today with certainty that we can reach the final. The favorites are Brazil, Spain, Germany and Argentina. We are slightly further back. I'm thinking about Spain, with whom we have drawn with twice recently and Brazil, against whom we lost but played a great match."
Buffon and his Italian side will face England in their World Cup opener in Manaus on June 14 where both sides will be desperate to avoid defeat. Italy will then face Costa Rica before finishing the group with a clash against Uruguay in Natal. The Italians would fancy their chances in the Round of 16 where they would meet any one of either Colombia, Greece, Japan or Ivory Coast. Italy has won the World Cup four times and been runners-up twice.