Italy consistently manage to produce top-quality goalkeepers; it is part of their DNA. It is perhaps unthinkable to imagine the Azzurri without one. Now, as one of their greatest looks to be performing his swan song, the nation can take pride over its new breed of shot-stoppers.
Gianpiero Combi was one of the trailblazers in the Italian art of goalkeeping, winning the 1934 World Cup with the national team. He is still classed as one of Italy's greatest of all time, playing his entire career with Juventus. At this time, he was greatly pushed by Carlo Ceresoli, who played in the memorable "Battle of Highbury" as another superb custodian.
Valerio Bacigalupo was another excellent Italian shot-stopper, fronting the Il Grande Torino team of the 1940s. They swept all before them and are remembered fondly, especially after their tragic end in the Superga disaster.
Bacigalupo was followed by Enrico "Ricky" Albertosi, who was the national keeper in the 1966 and 1970 World Cups. He won the Scudetto with Cagliari as well as being involved in the "Game of the Century" in Mexico 1970, pulling off save after save.
From 1968 until 1983, Dino Zoff—arguably Italy's greatest goalkeeper ever—played 112 times for his national team. Captaining his team to a World Cup Final win in 1982 was his greatest achievement. He was voted the third best goalkeeper of the last century after Lev Yashin and Gordon Banks, high praise indeed.
In the 1980s and 1990s, Italy boasted the best league in the world and had the goalkeepers to match. Walter Zenga had a superb Italia 90, whilst Angelo Peruzzi, Gianluca Pagliuca and Francesco Toldo all amazed their public.
Gianluigi Buffon is the most recent to fall off Italy's conveyor belt of goalkeeping excellence. A World Cup winner in 2006, he has consistently performed well, mostly at Juventus where he still plies his trade. Seen as a competitor to both Combi and Zoff as Italy's greatest, he has big gloves to fill.
This challenge has been put on a new breed of goalkeeper, and once again Italy have their future stars between the pipes.