Italy keeper Gianluigi Buffon detects a totally different mood in the Azzurri’s camp approaching Euro 2008 compared to before the World Cup.
The Italians turned up in Germany in 2006 under the cloud of the Serie A corruption scandal in which Buffon’s team Juventus was to suffer the most serious of consequences as the ‘old lady’ was relegated, though, he stayed loyal to them.
Two years on, with the World Cup safely on their sideboard, the team is preparing in complete serenity.
“The atmosphere is different,” Buffon said at the national federation’s training centre.
“I sense more support from the public. And there’s more respect for the team.
“The only thing that has remained the same is the will to win.”
Reflecting on their prospects the Juventus keeper added: “We’re favourites, it’s not going to be easy, but we’re proud to have won over the respect of everyone. We’re the team to beat.
“It’s not going to be easy to repeat what we did in Germany, notably in defence with fellow World Cup winners Fabio Cannavaro, Marco Materazzi, Fabio Grosso and myself. Especially as the years are passing.
“But it’s obvious, everyone wants to succeed.”
Italy are in Group C, the group of death, with the team they beat in the final in Berlin in 2006, France, the Netherlands and Romania.
“It’s hard, but that’s also because we’re in the group. We’re calm, and we respect our rivals - the Dutch and the French of course but also Romania who have strong players like (Adrian) Mutu (also a Juventus player).
“In some respects the Euro is harder than the World Cup.”
Italy and France are old foes, clashing in Germany and again in their qualifying group for the Euro.
“It’s become like a game of chess between us. The two sides try to search out the other’s weakness.”
Buffon turned to his own season in Serie A which has not been without its problems, but he insisted “the worst is over”.
He then took a swipe at the ball which is to be used during the June 7-29 tournament.
“It’s really tricky to catch. Luckily we have the chance to get used to it here because if we only came across it for the first time at the Euro that would pose a problem.
“And paradoxically it’s easier for a keeper to stop a long distance shot rather than one from close range.”