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Donnarumma on defensive pride, Neapolitan spirit and hunting Buffon's records

Italy's latest goalkeeping great discusses what drives him and warns: the Azzurri are just getting started.

Gianluigi Donnarumma has his eyes on the prize
Gianluigi Donnarumma has his eyes on the prize UEFA via Getty Images

Italy have not conceded in their last nine games, and Turkey couln't lay a glove on them on Friday – they didn't manage a single shot on target as the Azzurri won 3-0. Yet there was a moment in the first half, with the match still goalless, that the Crescent-Stars threatened. Gianluigi Donnarumma was alert to it, punching the ball away. It is the lot of a goalkeeper in a big team: you will not be called upon much, but when you are, you have to be ready.

Italy are in safe hands. Still only 22, 'Gigio' has already racked up 27 caps for Italy since making his debut in September 2016, replacing a certain Gianluigi Buffon in a friendly against France. He has since recorded 16 clean sheets and, remarkably, has never conceded more than one goal in a game for his country.

As the Azzurri prepared for their second match of the tournament against Switzerland on Wednesday, he sat down to share his thoughts.

Build-up: Italy vs Switzerland

On Italy's EURO opener

Donnarumma celebrates another clean sheet
Donnarumma celebrates another clean sheetUEFA via Getty Images

It was important to win well. We had a great game, but we can't get carried away. We have to keep working, keep preparing. There was an amazing atmosphere in Rome – it makes you realise how much we've missed crowds. We hope that this is just the beginning.

Representing Italy means so much to us; we are proud to do it. We will honour the shirt until the end. Our celebrations at full time were reserved – we haven't achieved anything yet. We won and played well in what was an important game, but now we have to continue – against Switzerland, another extremely important game.

On team spirit and honorary Neapolitans

Yes, we all have an excellent relationship. We're a great squad, we get on well with each other, and that can only be a good thing. It is important for us going forwards; it keeps us calm and playing well together. It may even be the most important thing.

We [Donnarumma, Ciro Immobile and Lorenzo Insigne] have taught the Neapolitan dialect to all our team-mates. Now everyone speaks Neapolitan. Us Neapolitans bring joy to the team. The squad are all nice guys who love joking around. We get on well together.

The three Neapolitan amigos: Donnarumma, Immobile, Insigne
The three Neapolitan amigos: Donnarumma, Immobile, Insigne Getty Images

On Italy's run of 875 minutes without conceding

Our objective is always to keep a clean sheet – we know we can always nick one at the other end. We have been doing great defensively and we'll try to keep it that way. Not conceding for so many matches is a source of pride, but the team and winning matches comes first.

I'm really happy with how we are playing. We are staying focused until the final whistle. That's the strength of this group, staying focused for 90-95 minutes. Everyone saw it against Turkey. We need to keep it up and maintain the same desire in our next matches.

On representing Italy

Each time I wear the Azzurri shirt... it's indescribable. I hope to keep wearing it for a long, long time. I am fully aware that goalkeepers before me made history, but I don't feel any pressure. I'm just proud to follow in their footsteps. Buffon's records give you lots of motivation. It's not going to be easy, but I'll try to beat them.

 Gianluigi Buffon and Gianluigi Donnarumma
Gianluigi Buffon and Gianluigi Donnarumma Getty Images

On Wednesday's opponents Switzerland

They're a great team who play good football. They are quite an attacking side too, so we need to pay close attention for 90 minutes. We hope to have a great match and to get a good result. We will have to keep the same focus as we did against Turkey. Perhaps even more.

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