Friday 24 March 2017, 23:10

Buffon plays 1,000th professional match

Italy veteran Gianluigi Buffon achieved the milestone of featuring in his 1,000th professional game, as he helped his national team to a 2-0 win over Albania in their pursuit of a spot at the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™.

The clean sheet was a fitting tribute to one of the game's all-time great goalkeepers, who also overtook Spain's Iker Casillas's European international cap record by moving onto 168 appearances for Gli Azzurri.

Having made his debut back in 1995 for Parma, for whom 220 of his total were accrued, the 39-year-old went on to make his opening bow for Italy in a crucial France 1998 qualifying play-off against Russia, helping them to a draw on the way to reaching the finals, while still aged 19. He was the youngest ever post-war goalkeeper for the side until current understudy Gianluigi Donnarumma usurped him in September 2016.

The other 612 appearances have all come with Juventus and, in a week of milestones for Buffon, he became the club's longest-serving player in terms of minutes on the pitch in Italy's Serie A. He surpassed the tally of 39,680 minutes defending i Bianconeri's goal to overtake the legendary Giampiero Boniperti.

Having lifted the World Cup with Italy at Germany 2006, attended five and featured in four, Buffon will match the likes of Lothar Matthaus and Antonio Carbajal by featuring at the most editions of the global finals, should he make it to Russia 2018. Their win over Albania leaves them tied on 13 points apiece with Spain at the top of Group G.

"With Spain, we know we are not favourites but all teams are beatable," he told TMW Radio after the game. "If we play with belief, the way we did after conceding a goal against Spain in Turin and the way we did in the Euros then we can give them headaches. In these games, an incident can go for or against you. The important thing is to believe we can achieve something great."