Rome, March 20: Italy’s interim coach Luigi Di Biagio has praised captain Gianluigi Buffon, adding that the veteran goalkeeper was called up to unite the locker room ahead of two football friendly matches later this month.
Buffon, 40, is to continue as the Italian national team’s goalkeeper, according to Di Biagio, who replaced Giampiero Ventura after Italy failed to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, reports Efe.
“Gigi’s a monument, and is here not only to unify the team but also play and give something more,” Di Biagio said on Monday at a press conference for the upcoming friendlies against England and Argentina.
He suggested that Buffon should play with the Italian team against Argentina on March 23 and England on March 27 to avoid ending his career with the disappointing playoff loss to Sweden.
After missing the last opportunity to qualify for the World Cup, the Italian football federation FIGC hired Di Biagio, Italy’s Under-21 national team coach, to take the helm of the first team on an interim basis.
“The first aim is to play well and impose our style of play, if you play well, then in ten matches you’ll end up winning eight of them. For me, playing well means having the courage to get into the other team’s half regardless of the quality of the team that you’re taking on,” former Italian international Di Biagio was quoted as saying by FIGC’s website.
“It means sending the full-backs up to attack, pressing the opponents high and not being afraid to take on the best players. This is a cohesive group made up of players that I’ve seen develop. We need to start again with the right conviction straight away. We’re not at the level of the world’s strongest National Teams but neither are we among the worst.”
With his first squad selection, Di Biagio confirmed that he’s paid attention to the players that he coached first with the Under-20 National and then the Under-21 side. It was therefore no surprise to see 20-year-old winger Federico Chiesa and 20-year-old striker Patrick Cutrone among the nine out of 13 young players who have made their Azzurri debut in the past two years.
“With a bit of patience, we can rebuild an important team, there are lots of young players and they’re developing,” he said.
“I called up Cutrone because of his performances, his enthusiasm and for the fact that he’s moved through all the youth teams starting from Under-15 level and he knows exactly what I ask of him. Then, there are his goals which never hurt,” Di Biagio said of the AC Milan talent.
“Chiesa is ready to be here permanently, but this will depend on what happens in the league and it will depend on him above all considering what he shows in training and in matches,” he said of the Fiorentina rising star.