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Jul 1, 2013

Buffon eyes World Cup final

Juventus and Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon has set his sights on a place in the World Cup final next summer after silencing the critics with three saves in a penalty shootout as Italy overcame Uruguay to finish third at the Confederations Cup.

Buffon, 35, came under fire after failing to save one spot-kick as Italy were beaten 7-6 by Spain in the semi-final shootout, while his credentials as Italy's No.1 were being doubted as the Azzurri shipped a total of ten goals in Brazil.

However, he delivered his riposte on the field in Salvador by saving three penalties as Italy beat Uruguay 3-2 in another shootout before slamming the critics and setting his sights on glory next summer while clutching his bronze medal.

"Since I was unable to gift my team-mates any joy against Spain, I thought I'd do it today, even if it was a bit late," he told reporters. "I don't like hearing that I can't save penalties. It's humiliating. My career speaks quite clearly: I've been involved in five (shootouts) and I've won three.

"This bronze medal is deserved. Our strength was our team spirit and we will try to preserve it for the World Cup. This tournament has made it clear to us that we can compete with anybody. We still need to grow and improve, but we are heading in the right direction."

After lifting the World Cup in 2006, and finishing on the losing side in the final of Euro 2012, Sunday's game was the first time Buffon had appeared in a third-place play-off. While he enjoyed the occasion, he hopes not to repeat the experience next year.

"We've come third and that's a fair result," he said in the Gazzetta dello Sport. "All I'd lacked in my career was playing in a third-place play-off and now I've done that, I hope to play in the real final next year."

Meanwhile, Italy coach Cesare Prandelli paid tribute to his captain.

"Real champions emerge in the most important moments, and that is what he has done," he said. "Our captain doesn't shy away from anything."

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