Italy's Buffon 'hopes to recover in two days'

Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon says he can recover from a back problem in time for the Azzurri's next game.

Back injury forced Azzurri goalkeeper to leave game vs. Paraguay

Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon says he can recover from a back problem in time for the Azzurri's next game.

Buffon was replaced by backup Federico Marchetti at halftime of Italy's 1-1 draw with Paraguay as the Azzurri opened the defence of their World Cup title Monday.

Italy's next opponent in Group F is New Zealand on Sunday — giving Buffon six days to recover.

Buffon says the problem was with his sciatic nerve and that he "hopes to recover in two days."

Team physician Enrico Castellacci says he wouldn't make any prognosis before performing a series of tests.

Tuesday's "exams will determine what to do and what type of therapy will be required and then we can sketch a recovery plan," Castellacci said.

As always, Buffon believes all is possible, including a recovery for Sunday's second Group F game against New Zealand, despite the serious pain he suddenly felt in the last warmup for the Paraguay match.

"I thought I tore something apart, but it turned out I just aggravated my sciatic nerve," Buffon said.

But he couldn't turn down the chance for a 102nd international, which moved him within 10 of the legendary Italian goalkeeper Dino Zoff, particularly not on the opening day of Italy's defence of the title Buffon helped win in Berlin four years ago.

So, bedecked in splendid white from top to toe, he looked his usual indomitable self before 62,869 fans at the Green Point Stadium at the start of the match.

Yet, out of the blue, Paraguay's Antolin Alcaraz scored on a header in the 39th minute, leaving Buffon motionless as the ball flew past him in the bottom right corner.

Considering he had only been beaten with one own goal and one penalty throughout the 2006 World Cup, it was a shock.

Buffon was replaced by Marchetti, who plays for the small Serie A club Cagliari, little known outside of Italy and not that much more inside. He was never troubled in the second half as Italy rallied with a scrappy goal from Daniele De Rossi.

"It was really exciting, although at the same time I'm sorry for Gigi. Before I came on he calmed me down and encouraged me, and that was really nice coming from such a great champion like him," Marchetti said.

Even if Buffon does not recover by Sunday, New Zealand is largely considered the easiest opponent in the first round. And Slovakia isn't expected to keep Italy out of the second round either, with or without Buffon.