Buffon included in Italy's World Cup squad

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src=' ' class='caption'> Gianluigi Buffon was included on Italy's World Cup squad despite allegations that the Juventus goalkeeper bet on soccer games.

updated: February 25, 2007 11:40 IST
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Gianluigi Buffon was included on Italy's World Cup squad despite allegations that the Juventus goalkeeper bet on soccer games. The allegations surfaced last week amid a wide-ranging scandal engulfing Italy's most popular sport. In addition to betting, prosecutors throughout Italy are conducting probes into match-fixing. Buffon has acknowledged that he bet large sums on various sports events, but said he stopped when rules were put in place at the beginning of this season banning players from such activity. He also has said he did not bet on Italian league or Juventus games. Italy coach Marcello Lippi said he spoke with Buffon before announcing the squad. "Buffon's sunny behavior will not be diminished. He's serene,'' Lippi said. Still, Lippi said he was affected by the scandals, centered on Juventus, the club he coached before taking over Italy two years ago. "The adjective I've been using to describe this argument is bitterness. I think we're all feeling it,'' Lippi said. "With all that's going on, I hope it gives (the players) extra motivation to show the world that Italian soccer has great skill and morals.'' Buffon's inclusion was the only big doubt surrounding the squad announcement. Playmaker Francesco Totti made the team after returning last week from an 81-day injury layoff. Totti broke his left leg and strained ligaments in his ankle during a Serie A match on February 19. He had surgery a day later. Filippo Inzaghi and Vincenzo Iaquinta gained the final two forward spots, with Cristiano Lucarelli left off the roster. If further developments prevent Buffon from playing, Italy would only be able to replace him by citing an injury up to 24 hours before the Azzurri's opening game against Ghana on June 12. "He's a great person. I don't believe he did anything, but even if did make an error, I would stand by him,'' Totti said. Angelo Peruzzi and Marco Amelia were chosen as Italy's reserve goalkeepers. Italy opens training camp in Florence next Monday, then will face Switzerland and Ukraine in friendlies on May 31 and June 2. At the World Cup, Italy's other Group E matches are against the United States on June 17 and the Czech Republic on June 22. Lippi said he was not sure how Italy would be received abroad in the wake of the scandals but hoped that a large presence of Italians in Germany would cheer the team on. "I hope we're received with a lot of enthusiasm and we increase that enthusiasm with our performances,'' Lippi said. Squad:Goalkeepers: Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus), Angelo Peruzzi (Lazio), Marco Amelia (Livorno). Defenders: Gianluca Zambrotta (Juventus), Alessandro Nesta (AC Milan), Fabio Cannavaro (Juventus), Fabio Grosso (Palermo), Cristian Zaccardo (Palermo), Andrea Barzagli (Palermo), Marco Materazzi (Inter Milan), Massimo Oddo (Lazio). Midfielders: Mauro Camoranesi (Juventus), Andrea Pirlo (AC Milan), Gennaro Gattuso (AC Milan), Daniele De Rossi (AS Roma), Simone Perrotta (AS Roma), Simone Barone (Palermo). Forwards: Francesco Totti (AS Roma), Luca Toni (Fiorentina), Alberto Gilardino (AC Milan), Alessandro Del Piero (Juventus), Filippo Inzaghi (AC Milan), Vincenzo Iaquinta (Udinese). Reserves: Morgan De Sanctis (Udinese), Daniele Bonera (Parma), Marco Marchionni (Parma), Franco Semioli (Chievo Verona). (AP)