Buffon plans to continue through 2014 World Cup

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FLORENCE, Italy (AP) -Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon plans to continue playing through the 2014 World Cup, which will likely make him the Azzurri's all-time appearance leader.

"I'm not thinking about the end of my career, I'm 34 and I think I look pretty good. Plus, I'm in great physical condition and I'm full of enthusiasm," Buffon said Tuesday as Italy prepares for its opening World cup qualifiers against Bulgaria on Friday and Malta four days later.

"Most importantly, I've got a lot of desire to win and when you've got all those things put together then you can keep going," Buffon added. "When one of those three components starts to diminish, I'll be the first one to raise my hand and make myself a new life."

Fabio Cannavaro holds the record for Italy appearances with 136, followed by Paolo Maldini with 126, then Buffon with 120. Buffon already passed Dino Zoff (112) for the goalkeeper record.

Buffon faced a storm of controversy when it was revealed in May that he had his banking records examined on suspicion he made large bets, but he bounced back to help Italy to the final of the European Championship, saving a penalty kick from Ashley Cole in the shootout win over England in the quarterfinals.

"I'm not as reactive as I once was but I'm better now than I was during my times with Parma," the Italy captain said, referring to the club he began his career with.

Buffon made his debut for Italy in 1997 as a 19-year-old, coming off an ice-cold bench to replace the injured Gianluca Pagliuca in a playoff at Russia for a spot in the 1998 World Cup.

He led Italy to the 2006 World Cup title by not allowing any opponents to score in regular play over seven matches, giving up only an own goal from Cristian Zaccardo and a penalty from Zinedine Zidane.

A back problem forced him out at halftime in Italy's opener of the 2010 World Cup and he never returned as the Azzurri were handed an embarrassing first-round elimination as defending champions.

But he put the injury behind by leading Juventus to the Serie A title last season, followed by a stellar performance in Poland and Ukraine.

Besides looking ahead to the next World Cup in Brazil, Buffon will also be competing in the Champions League again this season, with Juventus back after a three-year absence.

Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
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