Matteo Darmian's Surprise Factor Symbolic of Italy's Long-Term World Cup Hopes

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Matteo Darmian's Surprise Factor Symbolic of Italy's Long-Term World Cup Hopes
Claudio Villa/Getty Images

Only making his second appearance with the Italian national team, Matteo Darmian became a focal point of Cesare Prandelli's game plan down the right flank, where he caused havoc alongside Antonio Candreva.

The Torino man was brilliant as he went on the kind of rampaging runs that put him on Cesare Prandelli's radar this season. He also showed surprising technique, and he introduced himself to England in a similar way to what Italy will try to emulate throughout the competition—with the surprise element.

In the hours leading up to the match, many had no idea about the shape that would be given to the Italian team.

Claudio Villa/Getty Images
Giorgio Chiellini feels the Manaus heat

After all, Prandelli didn't give too many indications as to who he'd start in the jungle of Manaus. In his mind, he had a clear idea that overloading the midfield like he did in the Confederations Cup against Spain would be the winning ticket.

He was right.

All too often, England full-back Leighton Baines was left on an island with two oncoming Italian wingers running at him. It proved to be a tactical masterstroke and was one of the main reasons why Italy was able to gather three points from their opening World Cup match.

Univision

It was from this position that Antonio Candreva set up the second goal by playing in a lovely cross to find the head of Mario Balotelli.

Darmian, however, became a rather symbolic figure of the surprise element within this Azzurri side. Expert pundits all over failed to mention Italy as a World Cup favorite, and they also didn't include them in the dark-horse category that has become everyone's favorite guessing game.

So, what are they? Italy won't care too much, as they know they have to get the job done in a circumstance that they'll undoubtedly enjoy—not being labeled as favorites.

It's a similar situation to 2006, when many who predicted winners failed to include Italy in their guesses.

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Needless to say, they went on to only concede only one goal before the World Cup final and were able to put the fabled fourth star on their crest.

This tournament, expect Italy to be one of the surprise elements. There's a plethora of attacking options for Prandelli to have fun with in the remaining two matches.

Despite the heat and humidity in Manaus doing everything it could to bog down the spectacle, Italy showed just enough to give their nation a reason to think that adding a fifth star wouldn't be an outrageous belief.

With the surprise element of Matteo Darmian down the right flank, Cesare Prandelli can start tinkering a bit with his lineup now that the weather will be more bearable.

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