'Special mentality pushes Italy beyond'
Italy have a special ability to achieve beyond their means in times of difficulty, according to captain and goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon.
History is on the brink of repeating itself in the most curious of manners as the Azzurri prepare to tackle world champions Spain in the Uefa Euro 2012™ final on Sunday.
Italy are just one win away from landing a major title and once again in the wake of a match-fixing scandal back home.
Six years ago following the outbreak of Calciopoli, Italy went on to win the World Cup.
Even before that, 30 years ago, the Azzurri won the 1982 World Cup just a couple of years after the Totonero affair, which almost deprived them of star striker Paolo Rossi, who served a two-year suspension for his involvement.
And now, once again, following the Calcioscommesse football-betting incident, Italy are on the brink of success.
Buffon says it's a peculiarity to the Italian mentality that allows their players to bring out their best under such circumstances.
"There's something special that's for sure. After all the gossip, Italians have a sense of responsibility and respect for the shirt that goes beyond our limits," he said.
"If you look to our history and our nation we don't always succeed but we bring together a compact group who think in an equivcoal way and that's our strength."
Although he acknowledges Italy's remarkable ability to pull something out of the bag, he said there could be no doubt who the favourites are.
Spain have won the last two major tournaments, are the highest ranked team in the world and sit on the brink of history in becoming the first side ever to win a third straight major tournament.
"It would be a delight to have the knowledge that you're playing a final after having already won the Euros (in 2008) and the World Cup (two years ago)," added Buffon.
"It's a feeling that athletes in their situation have never experienced and I think it could be an advantage.
"Spain have too many great players from the goalkeeper through the defence, the midfield and the attack that picking out one would be disrespectful to all the others, who for the last four to six years have dominated football.
"I said (before the tournament began) we wouldn't win because we when started we were behind a team that has played well and shown its superiority and the problem we have now is that we have to play against them tomorrow (Sunday). But luckily the game will start 0-0."
Although coach Cesare Prandelli has vowed to try to attack Spain, the wily tactician knows that his team's first challenge will be to win back the ball against the renowned pass-masters.
"Spain's strength is not just their possession but also their ability to win back the ball," he said.
"Our strategy will be to find our feet on the pitch and try to create a numerical superiority.
"We're not so presumptuous as to think we will run the game from start to finish.
"Even in the qualification phase we tried to play in a way that made the most of our players' qualities while also taking risks.
"We need to continue like this knowing that we've chosen a difficult path but I think it's a winning one.
"I hope we dictate the play. First we must try to close the spaces to win back the ball.
"Then it will depend on our attack and Spain's abilities, but we must always keep our concentration on the objective, which is closing down the spaces and countering."