Gianluigi Buffon cuts short international retirement, called up for Italy friendlies against Argentina and England

David Cooper 17/03/2018
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Buffon's international career looked to have ended in tears.

Gianluigi Buffon has cut short his retirement from international football and could face England at Wembley after being called up by Italy.

The veteran Juventus goalkeeper called an end to his Azzurri career after Italy failed to qualify for the World Cup, but he has chosen to return. His anticipated return to the squad was confirmed on Saturday.

Buffon, 40, has been capped 175 times by Italy and could add to that tally in the friendlies against Argentina on March 23 in Manchester and against England in London four days later.

Italy head coach Luigi Di Biagio has handed first senior calls to two forwards, AC Milan’s Patrick Cutrone and Fiorentina’s Federico Chiesa, the son of former international striker Enrico Chiesa. There is no place for Nice striker Mario Balotelli despite Di Biagio watching him in action recently.

The Italy team website said the squad will assemble on Sunday in Coverciano and travel to England on Thursday afternoon.

Squad: Buffon (Juventus), Donnarumma (AC Milan), Perin (Genoa); Bonucci (AC Milan), Chiellini (Juventus), Darmian (Manchester United), De Sciglio (Juventus), Ferrari (Sampdoria), Florenzi (Roma), Rugani (Juventus), Spinazzola (Atalanta), Zappacosta (Chelsea); Bonaventura (Milan), Cristante (Atalanta), Gagliardini (Inter Milan), Jorginho (Napoli), Parolo (Lazio), Pellegrini (Roma), Verratti (Paris St Germain); Belotti (Torino), Candreva (Inter Milan), Cutrone (AC Milan), Chiesa (Fiorentina), Immobile (Lazio), Insigne (Napoli), Verdi (Bologna).

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Gareth Southgate names uncapped quartet as Chris Smalling misses England friendlies against Italy and Holland

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Age is no barrier: Valentino Rossi

Uncapped Nick Pope, James Tarkowski, Alfie Mawson and Lewis Cook have been called up by England manager Gareth Southgate for the friendlies against Holland and Italy, the Football Association has announced.

But just three months ahead of the World Cup finals, the Three Lions boss has taken the bold step of omitting experienced defenders Chris Smalling, Gary Cahill and Michael Keane.

Star man Harry Kane’s ankle injury compounded a selection headache for the Three Lions boss who has selected a 27-man squad for the games.

Injured England squad regular Tom Heaton has this season been replaced impressive by Pope in Burnley’s goal, while Tarkowski has provided assured cover in front of him.

Swansea defender Mawson has enjoyed another impressive season, joining uncapped Cook, captain of last summer’s Under-20s world champions, in the squad. The Bournemouth midfielder was brought in as a late replacement in November and could now make his debut.

Jack Wilshere, who last played for his country in the Euro 2016 exit to Iceland, has been rewarded for his form and game time at Arsenal, while Southgate has selected Joe Hart despite his lack of minutes at West Ham.

Southgate remains fully focused on preparing his team for the World Cup despite the current political tensions between the UK and tournament hosts Russia.

Southgate said: “Clearly it’s a really serious matter and it’s developing very quickly. But my job as the England football manager is to concentrate on the football and prepare the team.

“As far as all my briefings and information is, we’re preparing to go to the World Cup, there’s no doubt in our mind that’s what we should be doing.

“And the only thing at this stage that is of highest importance is the safety and security of our players and absolutely of our travelling supporters. They’re the things we’re focused on really.

“I think it’s a matter that’s completely out of my control really. We are desperate to go to a World Cup and that’s where my remit ends on that matter.”

Southgate is disappointed to be without striker Kane but believes England can cope with his absence.

He added: “I think the medical reports we have are that for sure he’ll play well before the end of the season.

“You never want any player to experience injury and of course Tottenham have some very big matches coming up. It’s a disappointment for us not to have Harry with us.

“But I think of the 14 matches I’ve had in charge he’s only actually been available for six and within those six he’s scored seven goals. So there’s an indication of his importance and his standing for us. Having said that, we’ve had to cope without him and it’s important we’re able to cope without him because you never know what’s going to happen in football.

“And in those other matches, the likes of Daniel Sturridge, Marcus Rashford and Jamie Vardy have all stepped forward and scored important goals – and Jermain Defoe.”

On Pope, Southgate said his form had been “excellent” and made it worth taking a closer look at him in case England lose a senior goalkeeper.

Southgate said it was “probably a very difficult call” to drop Cahill, who has captained England in the past. The England boss said the Chelsea defender could win back favour before the World Cup, adding: “I think there are a few players not in this squad who are certainly not out of our mind.”

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Ryan Giggs confirms Aaron Ramsey out of Wales' China Cup squad after undergoing minor surgery

Phil Blanche 15/03/2018
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The Arsenal midfielder has been ruled out of the four-team tournament.

Wales will be without Aaron Ramsey at the China Cup as the Arsenal midfielder is set to undergo minor surgery.

Ramsey is expected to play in Arsenal’s Europa League tie against AC Milan on Thursday night, but the 27-year-old will miss the four-team tournament in Nanning which also involves hosts China, the Czech Republic and Uruguay.

“We’ve been in discussions with Arsenal and Aaron over the last couple of weeks,” Wales manager Ryan Giggs said at a press conference to name his 26-man squad for the competition.

“He’s got a small procedure. It’s the ideal time in the international break to get it done.

“It’s a blow because he’s a quality player, but it’s the best thing to do for the future and for Aaron.”

Real Madrid forward Gareth Bale, however, is in the squad, while Ashley Williams, who has been in the spotlight at Everton after making several high-profile mistakes, has retained the captaincy.

But Reading midfielder David Edwards – who had won 43 caps since making his debut in 2007 – has retired from international football, while goalkeeper Danny Ward misses out because of an administrative issue with his visa after his passport was lost in the post.

Paul Dummett’s international exile will continue as he focuses on Newcastle’s battle to avoid Premier League relegation.

“I had a conversation with him (Dummett) because he hasn’t been in the last few squads,” Giggs said.

“He just felt it wasn’t the right time to come back. He wanted to focus on his Newcastle career, which I have to respect and we move on.

“In the future we’ll have to wait and see.”

Giggs, meanwhile, has confirmed that Albert Stuivenberg and Tony Strudwick will join his backroom staff.

Dutchman Stuivenberg was on the Manchester United coaching staff when Giggs was Louis van Gaal’s assistant at Old Trafford between 2014 and 2016.

Strudwick, who takes on the role of head of performance, has also worked at United and with the England national team at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Osian Roberts and goalkeeping coach Tony Roberts, who worked alongside Giggs’ predecessor Chris Coleman, remain on the coaching staff.

“I’m delighted with the staff. Everyone who I’ve brought in were my first choice,” Giggs said.

“Osian has been around the squad for a long time and he’s been a tremendous help regarding the young players we’re bringing in, his knowledge. He, as well as Tony Roberts, is staying.

“I’ve worked with Albert and Tony at United and they will be great new additions.

“I’ve got a mix of people I know really well and people who have contributed in the last few years to Welsh football and the success we’ve had.”

As well as experienced players like Bale, Joe Allen and Ben Davies, Giggs has handed an opportunity to several youngsters.

Brentford defender Chris Mepham, Swansea full-back Connor Roberts, Preston forward Billy Bodin and Ipswich goalkeeper Michael Crowe are all called up for the first time.

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