(AFP) – Italy’s preparations for their World Cup clash with England suffered a huge blow after goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon was ruled out just hours away from kick off on Saturday.
Buffon limped out of a training session on Friday after suffering the knock and after receiving treatment immediately had to undergo sessions of physiotherapy late into the night.
On his personal Twitter page, Buffon urged fans to make light of his absence and support his replacement Salvatore Sirigu in Saturday’s Group D battle.
“Life is great… and a missed match or another missed World Cup is not going to change my opinion on that !!” Buffon said.
“And, even if you’re not out on the pitch, there are other ways in which you can play an important role. So, go on Salvatore Sirigu !! Go on the lads !! Go on Italy !!”
The loss of Buffon, one of the world’s best goalkeepers and a pillar of an Italian side looking to make amends for their first-round exit in 2010 could be a huge blow for Italy.
The Juventus ‘keeper played only one half-time in South Africa, coming off with a back injury and being replaced by Federico Marchetti.
Italy drew 1-1 with Paraguay, and with Marchetti between the sticks Italy stumbled badly in their next game, drawing 1-1 with lowly New Zealand.
Italy eventually crashed out thanks to a 3-2 defeat to Slovakia.
Although the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) had yet to make any announcement on Buffon’s absence, comments by the keeper’s sister Guendalina suggested he would recover for Italy’s remaining first round games against Costa Rica and Uruguay.
“We’ll have to wait for his debut in the World Cup,” she said in an interview with Radio2 in Italy.
“I was pretty worried but he raised my spirits quickly, he’s positive and smiling because at first he thought it might have been a lot worse.
“We sent text messages to each other this morning and he’s reassured us because it’s only a blow to the ankle that will be fine with a few days of therapy.”