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Italy's Francesco Toldo is a goalkeeper with a number 12 stamped on the back of his shirt but a number one stamped on his mind.
His performances over the past few weeks have given him the
edge over Parma's Gianluigi Buffon as Italy's first choice
keeper and, for many, he is also the number one goalkeeper of Euro 2000.
Toldo's brilliant exhibition of penalty saves in Italy's
tense semifinal defeat of the Netherlands on Thursday earned him ample praise from coach Dino Zoff, who is rumoured to know a thing or two about goalkeeping himself.
"He'd already started well with the penalties during the
match," said Zoff, referring to Toldo's magnificent save to his left from Frank de Boer's 39th minute spot-kick.
"He did everything right during the game and on the
penalties after extra time he was extraordinary."
After his save from De Boer, Toldo watched Patrick Kluivert
crash a second Dutch spotkick against his right hand post in the 62nd minute.
The Fiorentina goalkeeper then saved penalties from De Boer
(again) and Paul Bosvelt and watched Jaap Stam blast his kick over the crossbar as the Italians won 3-1 on spotkicks after extra time.
"Penalties are psychological things, wars between you and
the attacker," said Toldo, who would have been Italy's second choice goalkeeper here had Buffon not fractured a bone in his hand on the eve of the tournament.
"Psychologically you have to try to unsettle your opponent," he said. "That's why Stam missed."

SPECTACULAR
Toldo's spectacular semifinal performance marked the high
point of a career wich has owed as much to fortune and
coincidence as his 1.96-metre frame and undeniable talent.
He won his first cap as a substitute in a qualifier for Euro 96 after Italy's second choice keeper at the time, Luca Bucci, was sent off against Croatia.
Toldo had not even been due to travel to the match in Split
but was called up at the last minute when first choice
goalkeeper Angelo Peruzzi suffered an injury.
He had already packed his bags to go on holiday for the
weekend when he was drafted in to the squad.
Toldo profitted a second time from Peruzzi's bad luck at the 1998 World Cup when he was called up as Italy's third choice keeper when the Juventus player suffered an injury.
Buffon's injury a month ago gave him another opportunity to
show his worth and he has not let Zoff or Italy down.
Toldo, alongside Italy's reserve keepers Francesco Antonioli and Christian Abbiati, trains under the guidance of assistant coach Pietro Ghedin but Zoff, capped 112 times between the posts, is also around to give advice.
"It's really valuable having him here," Toldo said. "He acts as a point of reference... he was a legend of Italian
goalkeeping."
Toldo has been locked in a dispute with Fiorentina over his
future and could well leave the club before the start of next season. Unsurprisingly, plenty of clubs have expressed an interest.
First though he has another engagement following Sunday's
final against France.
Next weekend the outgoing and humourous 28-year-old from
Padova is due to get married.
 
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