Italy must develop killer instinct, says Buffon after narrow victory

LEIPZIG, Germany: Italy secured a crucial 2-1 win over Albania in their opening match of the 2024 European Championship on Saturday, but their former goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon wants the Italians to learn to decide games after risking a last-minute equaliser.

Luciano Spalletti's team fell behind in the first minute when Nedim Bajrami scored the fastest goal ever scored at a European Championship, but they overturned the deficit within 15 minutes with goals from Alessandro Bastoni and Nicolo Barella.

“We did well and showed that we are a balanced national team with awareness,” said 46-year-old Buffon, who is the head of the national team's delegation at the European Championships, at Italy's training ground in Iserlohn.

“Despite a shocking start that could have been destabilizing, we fought through the game. As the coach said, our strength lies in sticking to the game plan. We fully deserved the win.”

“Spalletti always tries to get the best out of what he has at his disposal. Sometimes he uses the stick and sometimes he uses the carrot. I think these are inevitable means if you want to get the best out of the guys.”

Reigning champions Italy produced an impressive response to the early setback but could not score another goal to decide the game and were almost punished at the end when substitute Rey Manaj forced Gianluigi Donnarumma into a last-minute save.

“The composure with which we recovered from the deficit was the strongest signal,” said Buffon.

“But there is still something to perfect – with a little more cynicism and anger we probably wouldn't have risked seeing a fundamental victory almost fizzle out in the 90th minute.”

Italy's next match is on Thursday against Spain, a team that also impressed in its 3-0 win over Croatia, and an opponent that will bring back memories of Euro 2016 when Italy won the round of 16.

“It was a Spain that was perhaps at the end of a cycle due to age,” said Buffon.

“Our team, on the other hand, is a national team at the beginning of the cycle. I would like to imagine that in two years we will be at the top, but we can already achieve a high level of performance.”