Gianluigi Buffon sees no reason why Italy cannot prolong their Euro 2012 adventure, with a quarter-final showdown with England awaiting on Sunday.
The Azzurri, like England, arrived at this summer's European Championship with expectations lower than usual.
Disappointing showings at Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup suggested they would struggle to mount a serious challenge for continental glory.
Buffon concedes as much, admitting that he would have been 'carted off' had he billed Italy as contenders prior to the tournament getting underway.
The 2006 World Cup winners have, however, made it safely through to the last eight and consider themselves to be dark horses to go all the way.
Buffon said: "I have never said that we will win the tournament because, if I had said that, I might have been carted off.
"I would have been rather presumptuous, given that there is Spain, who are much stronger than anyone, and Germany, who are much better than the others.
"But this does not mean that, if we meet these teams, we will automatically lose."
Buffon will line up against Germany at the semi-final stage if Italy can see off England, and he has enjoyed success against the Three Lions in the past.
The Juventus goalkeeper added: "I only ever faced England in two friendlies and we won both.
"I've never played them in an important match before. I hope there will be more occasions, but I above all hope we win this one."
England's past history at major tournaments suggests there is every chance that Sunday's encounter will go the distance, but Buffon is hoping a penalty shoot-out can be avoided.
"For everyone involved, for the sake of our hearts, it would be better if we get the job done without having to resort to penalties," he said.
"But if it does, then we will just have to deal with it."