Pirlo eyes group stage return
Midfielder looking to make speedy recovery from calf injury
Last Updated: June 8, 2010 7:34pm
Pirlo: Vital to Italy
Andrea Pirlo is confident he will be ready to kick-start his World Cup before the end of the group stages.
The AC Milan midfielder is targeting Italy's final Group F encounter against Slovakia on 24th June for his return to action.
The 31-year-old has already been forced to accept that he will miss the Azzurri's opening two fixtures with a calf injury.
He sustained the problem during a warm-up game against Mexico last week and has been told that it will take three weeks to heal.
That means he may even struggle to make the clash against Slovakia, but for now that contest remains at the forefront of his thoughts.
"Over the last few days I have been recovering and I feel less pain," Pirlo told Gazzetta dello Sport.
"The situation is encouraging as the lesion has started to heal. I have faith, even though the return will be defined step by step."
National coach Marcello Lippi is hoping Pirlo will be back in contention sooner rather than later, as he recently dubbed the experienced playmaker as 'irreplaceable'.
There is no doubt he will be crucial to any hope Italy have of retaining the crown they collected in Germany back in 2006.
Confidence, though, remains high within the Italian camp and veteran goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon is confident they can repeat their heroics from 2006.
"We can see that Lippi believes in it very strongly," he said
"And we want to give him another epic month, we are sure of this."
He added in La Repubblica: "Our performances after 2006 mean we are not favourites. Maybe Brazil are the biggest favourites compared to other teams.
"But, we will refresh people's memories in a week or so. We will dive into retrospect so we can believe in ourselves."