Soccer-Chameleon Azzurri are clutch match specialists - Buffon


By Nick Mulvenney

NATAL, Brazil, June 22 (Reuters) - Italy are "must-win" game specialists and have a Chameleon-like versatility that will get them the result they need in this week's World Cup showdown with Uruguay, captain Gianluigi Buffon said on Sunday.

The 36-year-old goalkeeper, playing in his fifth World Cup, said Italy's experience in playing clutch matches would hold them in good stead in the Group D decider at the Dunas arena on Tuesday.

After a 2-1 victory over England followed by a shock 1-0 defeat by Costa Rica, Italy need at least a draw against Uruguay to progress to the last 16 with the Central American nation.

"This is the 10th international tournament I'm playing in with Italy and in 10 tournaments only once were we already qualified by the third match," he told reporters in Natal.

"If I'm not wrong, five times we needed to draw and four times we needed to win.

"History has not changed so much."

Italy need a result in the final match after a disappointing performance against Costa Rica in which they offered their opponents too many attacking opportunities and created too few of their own.

Buffon said past tournaments had showed a poor second match was entirely in keeping with the Italian traditions.

"Historically for Italy, every time we win the first game the second game is not good," he added.

"That is part of our DNA, I don't know why. But then at the third match we reach a better level and this is what we are concentrating on now."

More concerning for Italy perhaps is the injury that will almost certainly rule holding midfielder Daniele De Rossi out of the match and force coach Cesare Prandelli to change his formation.

Buffon said no decisions had been passed on to the team yet but was confident they would be on a good display however they lined up in Natal.

"Maybe after training today or tomorrow, we will know," he said.

"But we are open to all options. One of our best qualities is that we are chameleons and I hope this versatility will help us to reach all the results we are aiming for."

Four-times world champions, Italy have reached five finals and two semi-finals in World Cups and European Championships since 1982.

With such a record, Buffon could hardly disagree that not getting into the first knockout round in Brazil would fall short of the standards the nation has come to expect.

"It will definitely be a failure for the group. We would not be able to rank ourselves among the Italian sides of the past," he said.

"It's undeniable but nobody is afraid of assuming that responsibility." (Editing by Ed Osmond)

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