- POSTED: 17 Jun 2014 09:08
- UPDATED: 17 Jun 2014 09:38
Salvatore Sirigu has long lived in the shadow of Gianluigi Buffon, but now he has had his chance to play, the Italy goalkeeper said he would readily move aside to boost the country's chances of a fifth World Cup title.
MANGARATIBA, Brazil: Salvatore Sirigu has long lived in the shadow of Gianluigi Buffon, but now he has had his chance to play, the Italy goalkeeper said he would readily move aside to boost the country's chances of a fifth World Cup title.
Sirigu had the task of stopping England's attack in the Group D opener in Manaus after Gianluigi Buffon suffered a late injury in training.
Despite his impressive World Cup debut in the 2-1 victory, the 27-year-old Sardinian is ready to step back if Buffon, 36, recovers in time for Italy's clash on Friday against the Costa Rica side that stunned Uruguay 3-1.
"I have to be realistic," said Sirigu, who plays for Paris Saint Germain. "There's no competition between me and Gigi at all. He's more than just a player.
"He told me how happy he was for me to play, but I'd be happy if he recovered in time for Costa Rica."
For his World Cup debut, Sirigu won plenty of plaudits.
Despite being unable to stop Daniel Sturridge from levelling for England two minutes after Claudio Marchisio had given the Azzurri a 35th minute lead, Sirigu made some key saves.
He parried a low strike from Sturridge moments before an Italian offensive which saw Mario Balotelli head home Italy's winner on 50 minutes.
And as England pressed hard to level the match for a second time, Sirigu blocked efforts from Ross Barkley and Leighton Baines.
His performance left his father Adriano blushing with pride. "He had a great match. I got a SMS message from him by telephone, he told me he was doing well," the father told Rai Italian television.
"I told him, just keeping doing as you did."
Sirigu's moment of glory, however, has been a long time coming.
After joining Palermo in 2005, he had loan spells at Serie C1 club Cremonese (2007-2008) and then at Serie B side Ancona, where he played only 15 games as Brazilian teammate Da Costa held sway.
Sirigu returned to Palermo, as a second-choice 'keeper behind Rubinho, for the 2009-10 season but took over from the Brazilian five games into the season.
A man of the match performance by Sirigu in a 1-1 draw away to Lazio was followed by another strong performance in a stunning 2-0 win against Serie A giants Juventus.
Rewarded with a contract extension soon after, Sirigu attracted the attention of French giants PSG, who signed him on a four-year deal in 2011.
"Going abroad broadened my horizons," said Sirigu, who has impressed the French media by learning the language in a few months.
"And playing in the Champions League has allowed my game to develop."
Growing up with a mother who is an art history professor, Sirigu says he is "loving the culture" on offer in the 'City of Light'.
But when it comes to the World Cup, there is nothing better than seeing the "particular" Italians, who have huge regional language and cultural differences, come together as one.
"I love it when the World Cup comes around, that's when we all feel really Italian," Sirigu added.
"From France, I watch our strange country and it makes me laugh, really. We're a particular kind of people.
"Teams and regions hate each other but we're really all Italian. And this blue jersey is beautiful to wear."
Although the whole of Italy will be hoping Buffon wins his fight to recover from the ankle injury, Sirigu is remaining calm.
"What makes me happy is knowing that I've given everything I can when I'm trying to stop the ball," he said.