Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini admits the herniated disc that has sidelined goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon is a huge blow for Gli Azzurri.
The Juventus goalkeeper is out indefinitely after being substituted during his team's 1-1 draw with Paraguay in their FIFA World Cup™ Group F opener due to back pain. Buffon will miss Sunday's match against New Zealand in Nelspruit and almost certainly their final group game against Slovakia on 24 June in Johannesburg.
"Gigi has charisma," said Chiellini. "He gives strength to others. His saves' worth are like goals from strikers. I know what it means for him to play at the World Cup. We miss Gianluigi as a man and we hope he will recover as soon as possible."
However, the Juventus defender is confident Cagliari goalkeeper Federico Marchetti will be a sturdy replacement. "Federico has matured," said Chiellini. "He proved against Paraguay that he is a good goalkeeper and he is calm and ready to help the team."
Gigi has charisma. He gives strength to others. His saves' worth are like goals from strikers.
Despite Italy's slow start, Chiellini believes the team will improve as the tournament goes on. "Italy can do well," he said. "We want to score more goals and we will continue to grow as a team. Perhaps the draw between New Zealand and Slovakia is a point in our favour but we will have to show a lot of strength to beat New Zealand and finish first of our group in order to avoid facing Holland in the next round."
Chiellini expects a tough match against New Zealand, a side Italy faced last year in a friendly in Pretoria which ended 4-3 in favour of the reigning world champions. "New Zealand are a very physical side, mentally strong and dangerous in dead-ball situations," Chiellini said.
"They take few risks and I remember last year they scored two goals against us because of dead-ball situations. We need to bring more flair in attack and take more shots. I don't want to think about a draw."
Gli Azzurri will also be without playmaker Andrea Pirlo for the clash against New Zealand but are hopeful the AC Milan man will return in time for the match against Slovakia.