Italy vs Albania - Gianluigi Buffon set for 1,000th senior match as Italy take on Albania



Posted Friday, March 24, 2017 by PA

Gianluigi Buffon will play his 1,000th senior match when Italy face Albania in a World Cup qualifier on Friday with the veteran seemingly no closer to thinking about retirement.

The Italy and Juventus goalkeeper, 39, who has previously joked he will retire when he is 65, was giving little away about his future plans after arriving in Palermo on Thursday.

"As far as I'm concerned, tomorrow will be a great achievement and the only assurance I can give is that there will not be another thousand," he said with a laugh.

Asked if he might retire after the 2018 World Cup, he added: "I don't know, now I just have to think about the upcoming games."

Buffon's landmark appearance will come in a World Cup qualifier which Italy need to win as the battle at the top of Group G remains fierce.

Italy are level on 10 points with leaders Spain, who will be facing an Israel side one point worse off in third place.

"We have great respect for Albania and that is not just rhetoric," Buffon added. "In the last two years they have done very well and have played in the European Championship.

"I am glad the smaller teams like Albania have improved. The battles are more beautiful and balanced."

Italy coach Giampiero Ventura said he was expecting to see a "determined and fierce" Albania side, having seen them pick up wins over Macedonia and Liechtenstein to sit fourth on six points.

"To overcome them we will need a good performance," he said. "Albania want to make history. They are determined and fierce."

Albania are coached by former Torino boss Gianni De Biasi, who has claimed in the build-up to the match that he almost beat Ventura to the Italy job after Euro 2016.

"The national team would have been the crowning achievement of a career taking in almost all of the provincial teams," De Biasi told Gazzetta dello Sport.

"I don't envy Ventura though. If anything I envy his players, he has a solid defence, (Andrea) Belotti, (Ciro) Immobile and (Lorenzo) Insigne, the many alternatives he has. (Former Italy coach Antonio) Conte had fewer cards to play compared to him.

"Yes, I could be in his place now. Or, at least, I hoped to be. After a meeting with the FIGC I thought I was in pole position, then something changed and Ventura passed me.

"I only knew what had changed in November in Como. At dinner, (FIGC President Carlo) Tavecchio told me that one person, only one, had hindered me by using his veto."

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