Ranking Gianluigi Buffon's Top 6 Italy Moments

Adam Digby@@Adz77Featured ColumnistJune 18, 2014

Ranking Gianluigi Buffon's Top 6 Italy Moments

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    THOMAS KIENZLE/Associated Press

    There is little doubt that Gianluigi Buffon is one of the finest goalkeepers in the history of the game, and he is now the most-capped Italian international of all time. His ability and longevity combine to place him at the center of any discussion concerning the world’s best custodians.

    To this day, he remains a standout performer.

    For a fifth consecutive World Cup, Buffon has been named to the Italy squad, although he failed to play a single minute in 1998. On top of winning the 2006 edition, the Azzurri have reached the knockout stages in all but one of those tournaments, meaning Buffon has had the opportunity to impress on numerous occasions.

    Ranked in order on the following pages are the six finest moments the Italy captain has enjoyed on football’s grandest stage. 

6. Superman Flies Against Paraguay

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    Ahead of his first World Cup, Buffon would be introduced as a half-time substitute against Paraguay at Parma’s Stadio Tardini.

    Italy were leading 2-0 when Alessandro Costacurta netted an own goal past the young goalkeeper, but Buffon would later make amends and leave onlookers open-mouthed.

    Diving at full stretch, he somehow managed to thwart a close-range effort from Hugo Brizuela in the dying moments of the match. The striker's look of shock said it all.

    Buffon would remain an unused reserve at the tournament that summer, but he had already shown the quality which saw him nicknamed “Superman.” 

5. Denying Germany. Again.

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    Germany were viewed as favourites for the 2006 World Cup, but Marcello Lippi's Azzurri held them goalless in a tense semi-final which both sides had chances to win.

    Deep into extra time, Lukas Podolski had a chance to break the deadlock, finding himself inexplicably unmarked in the Italian box.

    His left-footed shot was heading for the top corner before Buffon intervened, getting a strong right hand to deny the striker and keep his team in the game.

    Late goals from Fabio Grosso and Alessandro Del Piero subsequently ensured Italy their place in the final. 

4. A Russian Debut

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    Back in October 1997, a 19-year-old Buffon would make his international debut as a replacement for the injured Gianluca Pagliuca, lining up in the first leg of a vital World Cup play-off against Russia.

    He would make a number of fine saves, most notably stopping a Dmitri Alenichev effort which looked destined for the bottom corner.

    He would help the Azzurri to an excellent 1-1 draw in dire conditions, with then-Parma team-mate Fabio Cannavaro’s own goal the only shot to beat him that night. 

3. Excelling at Euro 2012

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    Having inherited the captain’s armband from Fabio Cannavaro, Buffon would deliver an incredible string of performances at Euro 2012.

    After conceding only two goals in the entire qualifying phase, he kept a clean sheet against Ireland before saving a penalty from Ashley Cole in the quarter-final.

    His form continued in the next match against Germany, but he was left exposed by a porous defence in the final, unable to prevent Spain recording a comfortable victory. 

2. Brilliant Against Bulgaria Then an Italy Record

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    In the match before he equalled Cannavaro’s record number of appearances for Italy, Buffon would remind the footballing world that he was still one of the finest keepers in the game.

    As incredulous journalists swamped him with questions about how he had produced such amazing saves, Buffon simply smiled. "I don't know why you are still surprised," he said before walking away, per the Guardian.

    After 15 years of brilliance, they really shouldn’t be. 

1. Stopping Zidane and Winning the 2006 Final

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    In extra time of the 2006 World Cup final, France created a superb chance.

    Willy Sagnol swung a perfect cross in from the right, which was met by Zinedine Zidane. The French skipper somehow ghosted into the box unmarked and made excellent contact with the ball.

    The goal-bound shot was unbelievably tipped over the bar by Buffon, the Juve man making a stunning save with a strong right hand.

    The stop ensured the score would remain level, with the Azzurri eventually triumphing on penalties.