Gianluigi Buffon has been ruled out of the Azzurri's World Cup Group F match against New Zealand on June 20 due to a herniated disc in his back, but they are refusing to rule him out of the tournament, Xinhua reported.
Buffon only saw out the first half of the 1-1 draw with Paraguay on June 14. The world's most expensive goalkeeper was substituted at half-time in Italy's World Cup opener against Paraguay due to the problem, with Federico Marchetti taking his place. Marchetti now looks set to feature against the All Whites in Nelspruit on Sunday.
"The hernia is small, but even a small hernia can cause great pain," Italy's medical chief Enrico Castellacci said. "It's not easy to make a prognosis but it's a small margin and Buffon strongly wants to recuperate."
Castellacci added: "There is a desire on Buffon's behalf to recuperate, a chance that we have no right to take away."
Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini admits Buffon's injury could be a telling blow. "Gigi has charisma," he said. "He gives strength to others. His saves worth are like goals from strikers. I know what it means for him to play at the World Cup. We miss Gianluigi as a man and we hope he will recover as soon as possible."
Andrea Pirlo is the Azzurri's other major injury concern, having come into the tournament with a calf problem.
Castellacci had positive news on the AC Milan playmaker, revealing: "He has now been subjected to (an MRI scan), he is training and is running and things are going according to the schedule set out at the beginning. The objective was for him to return in the third game or the last 16 and he should be ready for (one of) those."