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 By Ben Gladwell

Andrea Pirlo could play on for Italy

Italy flew out of Rio de Janeiro's Galeão Military Air Base on Wednesday after exiting the World Cup at the group stage for the second time in a row.

Andrea Pirlo has not ruled out continuing his international career, if the future Italy coach still wants him.

- Buffon points finger at youngsters

The 35-year-old Juventus midfielder said prior to Italy's early elimination from the World Cup that the tournament was going to be his last for the Azzurri.

He did not officially announce his retirement after defeat to Uruguay, although many presumed he had played his last game for Italy.

On the flight back from Rio de Janeiro to Milan, however, Pirlo told reporters on board the plane that he had not yet closed the door on his Italy career.

"If the new coach feels it is right then I will remain available for Italy," he is quoted as saying by La Gazzetta dello Sport.

That is a stance endorsed by the Italian FA's vice-president Demetrio Albertini, who is a candidate to replace the out-going Giancarlo Abete.

"I hope Andrea does carry on playing for Italy as he could be the man to captain our ship," he said. "I consider him as one of the five best players in the history of Italian football."

During the World Cup, Pirlo signed a new two-year contract with Serie A champions Juventus.

He appeared 30 times for the Bianconeri in the league last season, scoring four goals and adding a further two in the Europa League, in which he helped take the Turin club to the semifinals.

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