'It can happen to anyone' – Buffon downplays Balotell red

The AC Milan forward was sent off in the space of two second-half minutes against the Czech Republic on Friday, but his Italy team-mate has urged his critics to lay off him

Gianluigi Buffon has insisted that Mario Balotelli was unlucky to be shown a red card in Italy’s 0-0 draw with Czech Republic in Friday’s World Cup 2014 qualifier.

The AC Milan striker was given his marching orders on 71 minutes following two bookable offences before punching and kicking the tunnel in frustration as he departed the pitch, but the goalkeeper was keen to play down the severity of the incident.

“I don’t see anything serious [in Balotelli’s red]. He picked up two yellows and it can happen to anyone, so I think people are reading too much into it,” he told Rai Sport.

“What matters is that when he goes onto the pitch, he gives his maximum. It’s not an issue of maturity, they are just on-field situations.”

Buffon then reflected on Italy’s performance and admitted that his side were reeling from the demands of a tough club season, having been outplayed for long spells in the Czech capital.

“It’s an important point. In our next matches, we must arrive [on the pitch] with righteous anger, competitive charge, but also the desire to fight. All these components were missing due to not playing for a month,” the Juventus man added.

“We struggled to put them into practice. I think it was a problem physically and mentally. When the season ends, you become deflated and are unprepared for matches like this.

“We have also carried heavy loads [over the course of the season]. But what matters the most is our allegiance to the national team, which never fails on the part of anyone.”

Meanwhile, Alberto Aquilani – who came off the bench to replace Andrea Pirlo in the second half – took the positives out of the stalemate and voiced his delight at finally establishing himself in the national team.

“It was a complicated match. [The Czechs] played to the death and gave everything for all three points. It is a draw that gives us hope, so we must accept it in a positive way,” the Fiorentina midfielder said.

“I tried to give my best when I entered the pitch. I’m fine with being labeled as a midfield deputy. I’m glad because it means I can play many roles.”

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