Goalkeeping giant Buffon stands test of time for Italy

ROME (Reuters) - There is no stopping master goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon in his ambition to add more major titles to his collection of the 2006 World Cup and seven Serie A championships. Buffon, who will lead Italy in France when they look to end a 48-year wait for their second European Championship crown, has extended his contract with Juventus beyond his 40th birthday as he also seeks the equally elusive Champions League. He has been a runner-up in both, finishing on the losing side in the Euro 2012 final against Spain in Kiev. The question is whether Antonio Conte’s Italy will be good enough to go one better even with record holder Buffon, ripening with age like a vintage Chianti, between the posts. Buffon, Italy’s most capped player with 156 appearances, set a Serie A record in March of 974 minutes without conceding a goal. “I was born for this type of work and to be the exception,” Buffon was recently quoted as saying in La Gazzetta dello Sport. “If it could happen that I’d be the first player to compete in six World Cups, it would certainly mean something because of its rarity,” he added with the 2018 tournament in his sights. He has seen action at the last four tournaments after being an unused reserve at France 1998. Any goalkeeper keeping a string of clean sheets needs the help of a good defence and Buffon has that at Juventus with Italy team mates Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini and Andrea Barzagli, but he also has to be a rounded performer. Buffon is a remarkable shot stopper, commanding in the air, a fine reader of opposition attacks and organiser of the defence and a respected voice in the changing room. (Reporting by Rex Gowar; Editing by Neil Robinson)