Gianluigi Buffon: Exit would be failure

Italy's crunch World Cup clash with Uruguay on Tuesday is a "game of life or death," according to Alvaro Recoba, while Gianluigi Buffon admits defeat would be "a failure" for the Azzurri.

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Only one of the two sides can join Costa Rica in qualifying for the knockout stages of the tournament from Group D, and that will be determined in Natal with the hopes of two nations riding on 90 minutes of action.

"It's the worst thing that could happen to both nations," former Inter Milan forward Recoba told La Gazzetta dello Sport. "I think Italy and Uruguay are the most dangerous sides around when it comes to all-or-nothing matches.

"It's a game of life or death. Historically, these two sides spit blood when their backs are to the wall."

Italy will go through with a draw or a win while Uruguay must beat Cesare Prandelli's men if they are to progress. Recoba therefore expects the game to be on a knife edge from start to finish, and that could prove detrimental to the hopes of the eventual winner.

"Whoever wins this game is going to have a huge job on their hands recharging their batteries, both physically and mentally because they are going to come out of these 90 minutes having used up all their last reserves of energy," added Recoba, who was capped 64 times by Uruguay. "There's a risk of them being a flop in the round of 16."

Italy's World Cup would already be regarded as a flop if they fail to get that far, according to their captain Gianluigi Buffon.

"If we were to go out in the group stage, it would be a failure and none of us are afraid of saying as much," the Juventus goalkeeper said at a news conference.

"If we do go through, then our problems would only just be starting, but it's one thing going out in the round of 16 and another not even making it that far."

Buffon nevertheless remains optimistic that Italy will show their true colours when it matters the most.

"History teaches us that the higher the stakes, the better we respond," he added.

"History also teaches us that it's part of our DNA to make a mess of our second game after having started well, but in the third game, we always respond. We can't lose our self-confidence for one bad game. I'm not saying we are the strongest, but we are not the team who faced Costa Rica either.

"We've got the right balance between being concerned and having conviction and pride, which is the only thing that can help you rediscover your energy in just a matter of days. We need our hearts to be burning and our heads to remain cool."

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