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Italy’s stars fall back to earth in Serie A

Italy’s stunned internationals return to the mundane setting of Serie A this weekend days after their star status in world football imploded with a shocking World Cup exit.

Goalkeeping great Gianluigi Buffon was back training with Juventus after his emotional retirement from international duty after two decades, preparing for Sunday’s game at Sampdoria, along with fellow 2006 World Cup winner Andrea Barzagli, and Giorgio Chiellini.

Daniele De Rossi, another former world champion, was back at Roma for Saturday’s ‘Derby della Capitale’ against bitter city rivals Lazio.

“Obviously nobody expected it to end this way. It was an immense letdown not just for us, but for all Italians,” said Roma’s Stephan El Shaarawy after the 1-0 aggregate play-off defeat by Sweden left four-time champions Italy out of the World Cup for the first time since 1958.

“I feel great bitterness, but we must get back on our feet and try to work towards the future,” he added.

Juventus captain Buffon and his Italian teammates can now fully focus on a chasing a seventh straight Serie A title and their Champions League campaign which continues against Barcelona midweek.

Napoli are top of the Italian league standings with 32 points from 12 games, a point ahead of Juventus with Inter Milan third on 30.

Massimiliano Allegri’s Juventus head to Genoa to play Sampdoria, sixth with a game in hand, boosted by the return of German world champion Benedikt Hoewedes from injury.

Maurizio Sarri’s Napoli, meanwhile, are looking to bounce back after being held before the international break, as they host under-pressure AC Milan.

Vincenzo Montella’s Milan are seventh after a 2-0 win over Sassuolo last time out but have struggled with big name rivals this season.

Meanwhile, Rome’s bitter rivals clash for the first time this weekend since the storm triggered by Lazio fans posting anti-Semitic photos of Anne Frank in a Roma jersey. -AFP

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