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After overcoming "high emotions" when making his UEFA European Championship debut against Romania on Friday, Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini is preparing for another stiff challenge, in the form of France danger men Franck Ribéry and Thierry Henry.
Chiellini was given his first taste of action in a major senior tournament when he was drafted into Roberto Donadoni's Azzurri lineup for the 1-1 draw against Romania on Friday. One of five changes to the side which lost 3-0 against the Netherlands, Chiellini confessed the tension was high before the match at the Letzigrund Stadion in Zurich, but he forged a promising partnership in central defence alongside Christian Panucci, for whom he even set up the equalising goal. "Before the match I felt very emotional to be playing but then when I got on the pitch I just tried to concentrate on the match," Chiellini said. "However, there's no doubt the emotions were high. It takes a little while to get to know one another [in a new partnership] but Christian and I both went out of our way to help each other out and in the end it went pretty well for us."
The 23-year-old full-back also recognises the importance of having a good goalkeeper to come to the rescue in times of need, and according to Chiellini, they do not come much better than his Juventus team-mate Gianluigi Buffon, who saved Adrian Mutu's 81st-minute penalty to keep Italy's UEFA EURO 2008™ hopes alive. "I'm very lucky I have him behind me all year round and he definitely makes you feel very safe and he always helps me out." Italy are also hoping the Netherlands help them out in their final group match against Romania. An Azzurri win against France would take them into the quarter-finals provided the Oranje avoid defeat in Berne."We're better off not thinking about it because it would be a big mistake to waste energy thinking about the Netherlands against Romania," said the centre-half, who has won eleven caps for his country. "Our match will be hard enough as it is as France are a tough side and we must think about them.
"From my point of view Franck Ribéry and Thierry Henry are the two most dangerous players. France are a great side and the match on Tuesday will be really tough. I saw their match against the Netherlands and when they were 1-0 down they had a couple of chances to equalise. They even had a good penalty shout turned down so they are not as bad as all that. Their result wasn't a fair reflection of the match. They are a side to fear and respect but we'll try to beat them."
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