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The Azzurri goalkeeper suggested earlier this week that it is only natural that teams sometimes agree to play out a draw if such a result benefits both parties

ITALY
GROUP C
HOW THEY QUALIFIED
P
PTS
 ITALY 10 26
 ESTONIA
10 16
 SERBIA 10 15
 SLOVENIA 10 14
 NORTHERN IRELAND
10 9
 FAROE ISLANDS
10 4

Italy captain Gianluigi Buffon has defended his right to free speech after causing controversy with his comments on Scommessopoli.

The Juventus goalkeeper intimated earlier this week that it is only natural that teams will sometimes agree on a draw if a point suits both sides, a view which was not well received in light of the ongoing investigation into match-fixing within the Italian game.

Buffon, though, declined the opportunity to hit back during a press conference at Coverciano on Wednesday, but did declare that he was standing by his comments.

"I will not tell you what I'm thinking about the controversies that have arisen after my statement," he explained.

"I can only say that it has been the umpteenth confirmation that those who have a clear conscience are not free to express their thoughts.

"Criticism is also normal, but the right to express one's thoughts should always be preserved. Anyway, like I always have done, I take responsibility for my comments."

Buffon also responded to Italian Prime Minster Mario Monti's suggestion that football should be suspended for two to three years in light of the latest corruption scandal.

"I think that a suspension would mean penalising the majority of players who are without blame," the World Cup winner argued.

"The important thing is to make the right distinction between abnormal behaviour and criminal behaviour."

Buffon insisted that the controversy, which has drawn comparisons with the Calciopoli scandal which overshadowed Italy's 2006 World Cup success, will not have an adverse effect on the Azzurri's preparations for Euro 2012.

"The national team, like me, is arriving at Euro 2012 with great desire to win and hoping that if we do well all this controversy will go away," he admitted.

"The atmosphere in the dressing room is good, I see [Mario] Balotelli and [Antonio] Cassano doing very well."

Italy have been drawn in the same group as defending champions Spain, Giovanni Trapattoni's Republic of Ireland and Croatia.

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