Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon feels that his side's Euro 2012 quarterfinal meeting with England on Sunday will be a very close affair because the two sides are similar in quality.
Both nations are unbeaten in the tournament so far and will meet in Kiev with a semifinal fixture against Germany up for grabs, and Buffon believes that the match will be decided by the narrowest of margins on the day.
"It will certainly be close because the sides have very similar qualities," he told UEFA.com. "I think the difference between the two sides will be very, very, very subtle indeed.
"England have always had players of great individual ability. They have not managed to win anything major in recent years, sometimes through bad luck. They have been knocked out in penalty shootouts a few times. But this year I think they have three or four world-class talents like [John] Terry, [Ashley] Cole, [Wayne] Rooney, [Steven] Gerrard, and we respect them a lot and know it will be a very hard match."
Buffon also paid tribute to his opposite number for Sunday's clash, adding that he felt England goalkeeper Joe Hart could now be considered a top-class player.
"Hart, along with [Manuel] Neuer, [Hugo] Lloris and our own [Salvatore] Sirigu, is no longer just an emerging goalkeeper, but is now established as someone who always plays well and can be a determining factor for his team. He deserves my compliments."
Spain is many pundits' favorite to win Euro 2012, and while Buffon feels the same, he also says that his teammates will prove tough opposition for whoever they face.
"[Italy has] a nice squad, we are all united for the same cause, but it's also true to say that for the last four years there has been a side that is considerably better than the rest, and that is Spain.
"In my opinion they are certainly favorites. Italy, though, are very hard to beat."
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