Italy's hopes rest heavy on Marchetti's shoulders

MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:41 PM ET

CAPE TOWN - When discussing the importance of Gianluigi Buffon to Italy's quest to repeat as World Cup champs, this is all you need to know.

During The Azzurri's Cinderella ride to the title four years ago in Germany, Buffon was beaten just twice throughout the entire tournament.

One goal came via penalty kick.

The other was courtesy of an own goal from one of his teammates.

In other words, Buffon did not allow a goal to an opponent during the regular flow of play.

Now, with a bulging disc in his back threatening to end his tournament, the hopes of an entire nation rest with 27-year-old Federico Marchetti, who will start Sunday against the New Zealand.

Here's the lowdown on Italy's new starting goalkeeper:

- He had "Hail Mary" inscribed as a tattoo after being involved in a serious car crash five years ago.

- Earned his first cap for Italy in May 2009 when he blanked Northern Ireland 3-0.

- Toiled for six years in Italy's lower leagues before breaking through to Series A with Cagliari in 2008 as a 25-year-old.

- Voted Italy's Goalkeeper of the Year on Oct. 22, 2009.

- Claims Buffon is his idol.

- Is known for his aggressive bursts off the line.

The World Cup is where stars are made. The ball is now in Marchetti's court to do just that.

Of course, whether he can adequately replace Buffon, the man many consider the world's best goalkeeper, remains to be seen.

Whatever the case, the Marchetti Era begins Sunday.

A FINE WHINE

First there were protests about the distractions of the vuvuzelas.

Complaints about the Jabulani ball are still going on.

And now, it is Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo who is whining, claiming "refs must protect skillful players."

Ronaldo took issue to a number of tackles he perceived to be vicious during a 0-0 tie against the Ivory Coast earlier this week.

Funny, but you don't hear Argentina╣s Lionel Messi making the same claim.

And this is a man who was voted world player of the year in 2009.

Ronaldo might have a legitimate point, sure. At the same time, Portuguese fans also would like to see him hit the back of the net with a little more regularity in the coming days.

FOE BECOMES FRIEND

After further review, FIFA has opted not to extend the one-game suspension handed out to Australia's Tim Cahill, whose hard foul against Germany's Bastien Schweinsteiger earned him a red card in the Socceroos' 4-0 loss Sunday.

In fact, the German midfielder actually played a role in gaining some leniency for Cahill.

A statement from Schweinsteiger was included in a document sent to FIFA by Australian officials.

Schweinsteiger actually told Cahill after the game that the red card had been unwarranted.

NO DUTCH TREAT

Dutch Foreign minister Maxime Verhagen called the arrest by South African police of two Dutch woman charged with ambush marketing "outrageous."

Barbara Castelein and Mirthe Nieuwpoort will appear in court again on June 22 after wearing skimpy orange mini-dresses to allegedly promote a Dutch brewery during the Netherlands-Denmark match Monday at Soccer City.

According to the South African publication The Citizen, 36 women in total donned the outfits but the two women in question allegedly promoted the wearing of the garb.

The story has been splashed across the front pages of various South African publications and has become an issue of public debate. But, given the amount of ticket scalping and other crimes that goes on here, why all the fuss?

At first blush, it seems much ado about nothing. Just ask the Dutch Foreign Ministry.

"It is outrageous that the two woman have a jail term hanging over their heads for wearing orange dresses in a football stadium," the Ministry said in a statement.

Agreed.


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