Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon believes the World Cup winners need to beat France in next week’s Euro 2008 qualifier to show that their Germany 2006 triumph was not just a fluke.
The World champions open their qualifying campaign against Lithuania in Naples on Saturday and then travel to Paris to face France next Wednesday in a rematch of the World Cup final, which Italy won on penalties.
“Being world champions brings with it a big responsibility, but the experience will help us to stay focused,” Buffon told La Gazzetta dello Sport’s website.
“Everyone will look at us differently. Against France, it will be important not to lose. We have to prove ourselves and show that we didn’t beat them by luck in Berlin.
“I’m just pleased there won’t be any penalties on Wednesday.”
The Juventus keeper is one of 14 World Cup winners in the 24-man squad named by Italy coach Roberto Donadoni, who took over from Marcello Lippi a few days after the final.
Strikers Francesco Totti, Luca Toni, Alessandro Del Piero and Vincenzo Iaquinta have been left out of the squad.
Real Madrid striker Antonio Cassano, however, has been recaled after spending more than a year in the wilderness.
“He has matured as a player, but above all as a man. Before he behaved like a kid. Now he’s grown up. He understands how you should behave as part of a team,” said Buffon.