Buffon eager for 'derby' clash

Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon is looking forward to facing neighbours France in Parma in the pick of Wednesday night's friendly internationals.

Gianluigi Buffon, Italy

The European giants clashed in the 2000 European Championship final, with France emerging victorious, before Italy got their revenge by winning their fourth World Cup in 2006 in dramatic fashion.

The 34-year-old keeper told Le Parisien: "It promises to be a great spectacle and it certainly has a special flavour.

"France remain a major player in European football and playing against Les Bleus is like playing in a derby."

France striker Bafetimbi Gomis is delighted to see Lyon midfielder Yoann Gourcuff back in the national team for the first time since May.

He told fff.fr: "I'm very happy. He has had some injury problems that have slowed him down but he has made a lot of effort to return to action.

"He always thinks of the team and it's good to have such an unselfish team-mate."

Germany and Netherlands go head-to-head for the first time since this summer's European Championship, but Joachim Low is struggling for numbers.

But at least the mass withdrawal of senior players will allow the Germany boss to look at some promising youngsters.

He said: "We can take this opportunity to look at those that do not get called up regularly, or have been called up for the first time.

"They will get the chance to prove themselves in such a prestigious fixture."

Juan Mata is happy to be back in the Spain squad after missing games against Belarus and France, and the Chelsea midfielder is ready to make a big impression against Panama.

He told as.com: "All Spanish players feel great joy when they are called up, and great sadness when they are not.

"There are many opportunities in the year, though, so the best thing to do is to stay calm and play well for your club."

Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo is a notable absentee as Portugal travel to Gabon.

History will be made in Sweden as Steven Gerrard prepares to win his 100th cap for England, with managerless Scotland taking on Luxembourg and Giovanni Trapattoni's Republic of Ireland welcoming Greece to Dublin.

Russia are a much-improved prospect under Fabio Capello but the USA present an interesting challenge for the ex-England boss.

Capello's counterpart, Jurgen Klinsmann, should make several changes to his line-up, with Germany-born defender Timmy Chandler ready to commit his future to the USA.

Belgium emerged as 2-1 victors the last time they faced Romania but Victor Piturca's men have hit a rich vein of form. Turkey and Denmark meet again after sharing two draws ahead of the 2006 World Cup.

Andriy Shevchenko has been offered the chance to manage Ukraine and the legendary striker can watch his potential charges against Bulgaria in Sofia on Wednesday night, while Czech Republic face Slovakia for the sixth time since Czechoslovakia was dissolved in 1993.

Across Europe, Andorra host Iceland while Armenia look to avenge last year's 3-0 loss to Lithuania and Austria prepare to face Ivory Coast for just the second time in their history.

Norway beat Hungary 4-1 and 4-0 during qualification for the 2008 European Championships and the two sides meet again in Budapest on Wednesday.

Uruguay face Poland in Gdansk, with Israel welcoming Belarus to Tel Aviv as Cyprus and Finland meet for the first time in seven years.

Elsewhere, minnows Liechtenstein and Malta face off in Vaduz, with the islanders hoping for a repeat of their 7-1 win back in 2008.

The hosts of the next World Cup, Brazil, do not have to qualify for their own tournament, so the Selecao get a chance to stretch their legs against Colombia at New York's MetLife Stadium.

Falcao, who has scored 13 goals in 11 games for his club this season plus five in five matches in South American qualification, provides the biggest threat.

Argentina boss Alejandro Sabella has named a strong squad to tackle Saudi Arabia, and Chile welcome Serbia to Santiago for a first-ever meeting between the two nations.

In Asia, Korea Republic take a break from trying to qualify for an eighth consecutive World Cup by facing a youthful Australia side, who have named five uncapped players.

Jose Antonio Camacho's China, meanwhile, will hope to bounce back from an 8-0 hammering by Brazil in their last friendly game, as New Zealand visit Shanghai.



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