One of Italy's top performers during Saturday's 2-1 FIFA World Cup victory against England on only his second appearance for the Azzurri, Matteo Darmian "could become a focal point of the national team's defence", according to Antonio Cabrini.
Now coach of Italy's women's team, former left-back Cabrini had a similar start to his international career. He made his debut in the first game of the 1978 World Cup in Argentina, a 2-1 defeat of France, and went on to become a key member of the squad that won the tournament four years later in Spain.
"It's impossible to draw comparisons as football has changed a lot since then," Cabrini told UEFA.com. "Maybe the only analogy is that we both broke into the national team during a World Cup. I did it in 1978 and he has done the same this year in Brazil with a brilliant performance against England."
In combining with winger Antonio Candreva on the right flank, Darmian not only repeatedly exposed England left-back Leighton Baines but also reaffirmed the qualities he demonstrated last season when helping Torino FC surprisingly qualify for the UEFA Europa League.
"He can become a focal point of the Azzurri defence for many years," continued Cabrini. "It all depends on him. After a very positive season in Serie A, he has the chance to keep on improving, especially by gaining important experience at international level."
A scorer of nine goals in 73 outings for Italy, Cabrini was a complete full-back whose runs and crosses from the left made him a potent attacking weapon. "For more than a decade the importance of the flanks was overlooked due to different tactical approaches," he said. "Then coaches began to reuse the flanks, but there were not many players able to operate comfortably in that position any more. After a few years there are finally some who can do it and Darmian is certainly one."
A product of the AC Milan academy, the 24-year-old Darmian took his Serie A bow with the Rossoneri in May 2007 before helping Italy to the final of the UEFA European Under-19 Championship in the Czech Republic the following year.
After loan spells at Padova Calcio and US Città di Palermo, the one-time centre-back has proved his worth since switching to Torino in June 2011, culminating in his Italy debut in a London friendly against the Republic of Ireland three weeks ago.
"If a few months ago you told me I was going to start the first game at the World Cup, I would have laughed," he said after the Group D fixture against England in Manaus. "But now I'm here, I want to work as hard as possible to use this chance in the best possible way. The victory against England gave us great enthusiasm, we defeated a very strong side."
Will the surprise element Darmian provides help Cesare Prandelli's team go far in Brazil? "It's too early to say," answered Cabrini. "Firstly they need to focus on qualifying from the group. After that, anything can happen. After one match you must keep your feet firmly on the ground. You don't have to get overexcited or depressed but rather continue to work as if nothing happened."
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