Buffon keeps Azzurri sweating

Keeper still struggling with back complaint

Buffon: Injury doubt

Gianluigi Buffon remains a major fitness concern for Italy after sitting out training for a second day.

The highly-rated keeper sustained a back injury prior to the defending champions' World Cup opener against Paraguay on Monday.

He lasted just 45 minutes of that encounter, with a sciatic nerve problem forcing him to make way at the interval.

Buffon stated after the game that he hoped to be back in action inside two days, but has missed training on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The 32-year-old has undergone further medical tests in an effort to get to the bottom of the problem, with results suggesting the Juventus shot-stopper has a slightly herniated disc.

It has been claimed that he could be back in action in time for the knockout stages of the World Cup, but that is the best-case scenario.

He will definitely miss Sunday's encounter with New Zealand and could yet be forced to sit out the remainder of the tournament.

Recurrence

Team doctor Enrico Castellacci has refused to speculate on how much time Buffon will need to recover, but admits the outlook does not look good.

"We're not talking about a time period, it's obvious it won't be short, it's difficult in this time to put a definite period on the recovery," he said.

"It's not a new problem, it's a little recurrence of a problem he's had in the past.

"He's an important player for the group but he's staying with us so we can try to get him back, not just to lend moral support.

"It's a small disc which is a positive thing, but it's not just about recovering from the pain, we're talking about an athletic recovery."

The weekend meeting with the All Whites has taken on added importance for the Italians after they were held 1-1 by Paraguay.

The pressure of heading into a tournament as holders appears to have taken its toll on the players, with nerves allowed to infiltrate the camp.

Midfield ace Riccardo Montolivo has admitted that Marcello Lippi's men were 'stressed' before their opening game, but is confident things will improve.

Concentration

"The first match is important but we were too stressed about the start of the World Cup," said the Fiorentina playmaker.

"I'm happy with the match, I had a good shot which the goalkeeper saved in the second half, we had a lot of concentration but were stressed about the start of the World Cup.

"Coach Lippi told us we have to try shots on goal but we were not too lucky in this match."

He added: "We conceded a goal against Paraguay but once it was 1-0 to them we came back a bit to defend and make sure we didn't go 2-0 down. We didn't want to lose the first game.

"The effort and heart we put into this game, I think it shows we can win the next games."