Italy have been rocked by the news that Gianluigi Buffon will be unavailable for their opening game of the World Cup against England.
The Juventus stopper suffered a knock to his ankle in training meaning he misses the Group D opener in Manaus.
So who will the Azzuri turn to? The answer: Salvatore Sirigu.
While for many teams, including England, the No 1 would be a struggle to replace, Italy are blessed with a top rated reserve.
Sirigu plays his football for Paris St Germain, the mega-rich French champions. Inclusion in a club squad alongside the likes of Thiago Silva, Edinson Cavani and Zlatan Ibrahimovic is a clear indicator in itself of the quality that will be between the sticks against England.
The 27-year-old made his international debut for Italy in London, although not against England, but in a friendly with Ivory Coast. His most recent match was also in the capital, a warm-up match against Republic of Ireland at Craven Cottage.
Italy: Group D team profile
Italy: Group D team profile
1/5 How they qualified
Italy were solid for most of their qualifying campaign, finishing six points clear at the top of Group B after six wins, four draws and no losses. Striker Mario Balotelli led the scoring charts with five of Italy’s 19 goals while the usually solid Azzurri defence conceded nine. Their decline in form towards the end – two draws against Denmark and Bulgaria – has continued into their six friendlies since, from which they have only picked up one win.
2/5 Manager: Cesare Prandelli
Cesare Prandelli took over as Italy manager after the disastrous 2010 World Cup – two years later, he had taken them to the final of the European Championships, only to lose out to the all-conquering Spain. Prandelli has gone against the traditional Italian counter-attacking style and instead prefers his team to take the game to their opponents. In the run up to this World Cup, the 56-year-old has chopped and changed his starting 11 – both in terms of formation and personnel – possibly to conceal his tactical plan for the tournament. Equally plausible is that he’s still not sure of his strongest side. Either way, Prandelli is confident and has said he is aiming for the final.
3/5 Star Player: Andrea Pirlo
You need only hear Andrea Pirlo’s nicknames in Italy – l'architetto (“the architect”), il metronomo (“the metronome”) il professore ("the professor") – to understand what type of player he is. The 35-year-old moves the ball around with pinpoint precision, keeps his team ticking over without ever missing a beat himself and does it all with a genius seen rarely on the pitch. Pirlo dictated the game when England and Italy met at the European Championships two years ago and could easily do so again unless Roy Hodgson devises a plan to stop him.
4/5 Emerging talent: Ciro Immobile
Ciro Immobile top-scored in Serie A for Torino last season, a feat which earned the 24-year-old a £16 million move to Borussia Dortmund in early June. The striker scored a hat-trick against Fluminense in Italy’s final World Cup warm-up match, leading to calls for him to start against England. If Prandelli opts for two up-front, Immobile is in with an excellent chance; should he go for one, however, then it will come as a shock to see him start ahead of Mario Balotelli.
5/5 How they line up (4-1-3-1-1)
Buffon; De Sciglio, Chiellini, Bonucci, Abate; De Rossi; Verratti, Pirlo, Marchisio; Candreva; Balotelli
In total Sirigu has eight caps for his country - a figure more reflective of Buffon's standing than his own ability.
The Nuoro born player switched from Palermo to PSG in 2011 and during that time has picked up two French league titles and helped take the Qatari backed side into the knock-out stages of the Champions League twice.
Known for his shot-stopping ability, his form last season saw him voted the goalkeeper of the year in Ligue 1.
There are few doubts over the ability of Sirigu, but his lack of games for the Azzuri coupled with the last-minute nature of his inclusion should be a source of encouragement for Roy Hodgson's side.Reuse content