Buffon defends Balotelli red card

Italy captain Gianluigi Buffon felt that Mario Balotelli's red card was harsh and did not reflect the striker's performance.

Mario Balotelli, Italy

By FOX Sports Staff

Italy were held to a goalless draw against Czech Republic despite being fancied to come away with a win.

Balotelli was sent off after receiving two yellow cards in the space of three minutes and took out his frustration by repeatedly punching and kicking the walls of the players' tunnel.

Buffon defended the young striker's actions, explaining that it was a reaction towards a harsh decision, not evidence of an immature player.

"We saw him in the locker room and clearly he was disappointed, but I don't think it's a problem. He received two yellow cards, which can happen to anyone. He stepped on to the field and gave his all." he said on Football Italia.

"I doubt a second booking can tell whether a player is mature or not. These things can happen on the pitch, so I see nothing particularly serious in it.

"He was unlucky, as it was a mid-air collision that happens many times and I think the booking was harsh, especially considering he was carded a few minutes earlier. It was a foul, but a second yellow for that is excessive. His angry reaction was down to his disappointment, nothing more."

Italy still lead Group B by four points and Buffon felt that a draw was a satisfactory result given that the players have been in the off-season.

"It is an important point which allows us to reach this final sprint in World Cup qualifying with a four-point lead and three home games. It's to be considered a positive result," he told Rai Sport.

"I think the real problem after the end of a season with a month's gap is to reach that game with the right tension and aggression needed for an international match. Technique is important at this level, but so is determination and aggression.

"The most important thing for every player is to give advice and at certain moments a verbal jolt to get them going. I'm not the only one who does that.

"When it comes to June matches, I remember quite a few poor ones, like a 0-0 in Norway and another with Switzerland. We were often under pressure, so clearly there is something in the timing. After the season we sort of get deflated, as we think the campaign is over, so a month later are unprepared.

"Our training has also been aimed at the Confederations Cup, so our legs are heavy at the moment. More than that I saw a psychological issue and one of tempo, as we struggled to change gear."

Italy will play in the Confederations Cup from June 16-30 where they face Brazil, Mexico and Japan in the first group stage and Buffon feels that the Azzurri are shaping up well for the tournament.

"I am optimistic, as I believe firmly in this team, the Coach and the football we play when we're in good shape. We already began this new convincing approach in Euro 2012 and are continuing along that path."

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