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Buffon back for Azzurri

BERLIN, February 8- Hosts Germany take on fellow European powerhouse Italy in Wednesday's friendly looking to build on their World Cup success, while the Italians continue their recovery after the debacle in South Africa.

While Germany finished third, Italy crashed out of the tournament having failed to qualify from their group and the hosts now have the chance to avenge their 2006 World Cup defeat at the hands of the Italians in the semi-final.

With the Azzurri rebuilding, veteran goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon has been recalled less than a month after making his injury comeback to bring some experience to the side.

Buffon has not played for his country since a herniated disc in his back forced him out of Italy’s first match at the World Cup last June.

But he has earned an immediate call-up to coach Cesare Prandelli’s squad.

The major surprise is the calling up of Inter Milan’s Brazilian-born midfielder Thiago Motta who has long been a naturalised Italian and on Monday FIFA gave the go ahead for him to play for Italy.

He is one of three Inter players in the squad alongside Giampaolo Pazzini and Andrea Ranocchia.

Italy hold the upper hand in matches between the two nations with 14 wins compared to Germany’s seven victories with eight games drawn.

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The last time the teams met was also at Dortmund’s Signal Iduna Park at the 2006 World Cup when the Italians sealed a 2-0 win after extra-time on their way to winning the title.

Much has changed since then as coach Joachim Loew has brought in an exciting brand of football by using fleet-footed wingers Mesut Ozil of Real Madrid and Bayern Munich’s Thomas Mueller to inject pace into Germany’s attack.

With Bayern Munich striker Mario Gomez out with a knee injury, veteran Miroslav Klose is set to start up front as he looks to build on the 58 goals he has scored for his country, having won 105 caps.

He is still ten short of reaching Gerd Mueller’s all-time record for goals in the Germany shirt.

There is no place in Loew’s squad for ex-captain Michael Ballack, who is working his way back to fitness after four months out having fractured his left leg in September.

In his absence, Bayern defender Philipp Lahm is set to captain the side.

Wunderkind Mario Goetze is set to win only his second cap as the teenager has charmed Loew with a series of eye-catching displays for German league leaders Dortmund.

"My family make sure I keep my feet on the ground," said 18-year-old Goetze after Loew insisted his place is in the national side, rather than the Under-21s.

Goetze made his senior debut in Sweden last November.

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Both Germany and Italy are cruising at the top of their respective Euro 2012 qualifier groups and are odds on favourites to win Group A and C respectively with the finals to be held in Ukraine and Poland in June next year.

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