JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 09: Gianluigi Buffon of Italy walks on during the Italy Arrive for 2010 FIFA World Cup at O.R. Tambo International Airport on June 9, 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images)

Conflicting Reports Cast Doubt On Italy Goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon's Remaining World Cup 2010

Gianluigi Buffon continues to be a doubt for the rest of World Cup 2010, with sciatic nerve problems having player and medical staff give different expectations of the goalkeepers timeframe for recovery.

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Herniated Disc Further Threatens 2010 World Cup For Italy's Gianluigi Buffon

Calgiari's Federico Marchetti is moving closer to being Italy's goalkeeper for the rest of the tournament after first string `keeper Gianluigi Buffon, removed at halftime of Monday's match against Paraguay, has been diagnosed with a herniated disc in his back.

Buffon now seems set to missed at least group stage after the diagnosis but remains with the team at their training camp in Pretoria with the hopes that the condition will improve at some point this tournament.

Italy's medical staff, led by team doctor Enrico Castellacci, refused to put a definite time frame on Buffon's recovery but expressed pessimism:

"We're not talking about a time period and it's obvious it won't be short but it's difficult at this stage to put a definite period on the recovery," Castellacci 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 and 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."

Italy's remaining group stage matches are against New Zealand then Slovakia.

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Conflicting Reports Cast Doubt On Italy Goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon's Remaining World Cup 2010

Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon was substituted off at halftime of Italy's 1-1 draw with Paraguay on Monday.  Twenty-four hours later, conflicting reports cast little light on whether one of the world's best goalkeepers will return for the Azzurri's next match against New Zealand.

The player, which is reported to have a sciatic nerve problem in his lower back, claims he will return within days, though the team doctor has taken a more measured tone:

It leaves him in doubt for the remainder of the World Cup, although the ever-optimistic Buffon claims he'll be fit again "in two days.''

Italy's team doctor Enrico Castellacci said Buffon would have medical tests Tuesday to determine the extent of his injuries.

"The exams will determine what to do and what type of therapy will be required and then we can sketch a recovery plan,'' Castellacci said.

As always, Buffon believes anything is possible, including a recovery for Sunday's second Group F game against New Zealand. "I'm hoping to recover in two days,'' he said.

Today, however, the FIGC (Italian football federation) released a statement saying the nature of the back injury precluded putting a date on the goalkeeper's return.

Elsewhere, both Buffon and Castellacci have confirmed that the goalkeeper was symptomatic for a flare-up of the injury during warm-ups, and the team medical staff had suggested then that Buffon not start against Paraguay:

"The coach subbed me because I had problems in my leg," the Juventus goalkeeper revealed.

"I was not very good during the warm-up, my leg was hurting.

"The doctor suggested before the match that I was replaced for one of the other goalkeepers.

"I hope this injury will be better when we play New Zealand."

Team doctor Castellacci said after the match: "It's a sciatic nerve problem he felt during the warm-up. He couldn't really go and play.

"On Tuesday morning we will decide what we have to do with him. We will look at exams and therapies needed for this injury.

"We don't know the number of days he will be out for. We need to look at what special medical machinery we need for this kind of injury."

Italy play their next match against New Zealand on Sunday, June 20.

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