The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION
Italy captain Gianluigi Buffon's separation from his wife surprises coach Cesare Prandelli
ROME - Italy captain Gianluigi Buffon's announcement that he is separating from his wife caught coach Cesare Prandelli off guard as the Azzurri opened their World Cup training camp Tuesday.
"I was surprised by his statement," Prandelli said. "I'm sorry, because whenever there's a separation it's upsetting for everyone. But the serenity with which he made the announcement leads to believe that he's mentally ready for this event."
Buffon, whose personal life has been under an intense spotlight in recent weeks, told Sky TV he has been "separated for a while" from Czech model Alena Seredova, who he married three years ago.
The couple has two boys.
Buffon is preparing to play at his ninth major international tournament, moving him level with former Germany great Lothar Matthaus as the top Europeans.
Buffon thanked his wife for not creating any problems in public and apparently wanted to clarify his status after he and Seredova were photographed at the Europa League final with their children.
"It was her who brought them to the stadium," Buffon said. "And I would like for them to come to Brazil — that would really please me. You can't ever forget that the first obligation we have is to make sure your kids grow up with the utmost serenity, no matter the fact that our roads could part."
Italy is training for three days this week before beginning full-time preparation next Monday.
With Prandelli concerned about humid conditions in Brazil, players wore heart monitors around their chests as they trained under the sun at the Coverciano training centre in Florence.
As for social networks, Prandelli said he would hold an open discussion with the squad to decide on how best to handle their use during the World Cup.
"By nature, I'm not a person who bans things," he said.
United States-born forward Giuseppe Rossi was included in Prandelli's preliminary 30-man squad despite missing almost the entire second half of the Serie A season due to the latest in a long string of knee injuries.
"He's a great talent and one of the most important players in the Italian landscape," Prandelli said. "His determination and desire to recuperate in time shows a lot of character. ... Of course he needs to work on his condition but I don't want to put too much pressure on him."
Antonio Cassano, another forward, is aiming to play in his first World Cup at the age of 31.
Cassano was a key member of Italy's squads at the last three European Championships but he was not a favourite of former coach Marcello Lippi and wasn't included on the 2006 and 2010 World Cup teams.
"He put himself back into consideration and that's already a victory. It means he did everything right," Prandelli said, referring to Cassano's strong season with Parma, where he scored 12 goals. "And at that age this is probably his last big chance."
Prandelli raised eyebrows by leaving off physical forwards Alberto Gilardino and Luca Toni from the squad.
"We want to operate in a different manner inside the area," he said. "That should be a message for the forwards."
In Brazil, Italy is in Group D with England, Uruguay and Costa Rica. Prandelli was asked how important it was to start well against England.
"It's easy to say a lot, for two reasons. Because if you win you get three points that are key for advancing, and beating a big squad is good for the squad's spirit," he said. "But history teaches us that at the last World Cup, Spain lost (its opener) to Switzerland and went on to win the cup. But obviously we would prefer to start with a win."
Italy will play two friendlies before flying to Brazil, facing Ireland on May 31 in London and Luxembourg on June 4 in Perugia.
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