Why Losing Mattia De Sciglio Isn't a Major Problem for Italy and Prandelli

Colin O'Brien@@ColliOBrienContributor IJune 13, 2014

Italy's Matteo Darmian looks on during a line-up before the start of their international friendly soccer match against Republic of Ireland at Craven Cottage, London, Saturday, May 31, 2014. (AP Photo/Sang Tan)
Sang Tan/Associated Press

Full-back is unquestionably Italy's weakest position, and it just got a little bit weaker ahead of the Azzurri's opener against England, because Mattia De Sciglio has suffered an injury.

The AC Milan defender fell prey to a muscle problem during training on Thursday, and after he was taken to a nearby hospital, Italy's team doctor released a statement ruling the 21-year-old out of Saturday's game with Roy Hodgson's men.

Speaking to the press, the head of Italy's medical staff Prof. Enrico Castellacci confirmed the injury, saying that an MRI scan had revealed a contracture to his left femoral bicep.

Prandelli could technically send De Sciglio home and call upon his reserve defender, Andrea Ranocchia, because changes are allowed until 24 hours before a team's first game, but it's thought that the Milan full-back will be better in time for the Azzurri's next match, which is against Costa Rica, five days after the England tie.

It's not a disastrous set-back, then, but it is still problematic because Prandelli is short on options on the flanks. Even De Sciglio, who is more naturally a right-sided player, was set to start on the left because of the lack of a genuine option in that position.

Now, the role will either fall to Juventus' Giorgio Chiellini or Torino's Matteo Darmian. Chiellini has played at full-back in the past but lacks the pace or the attacking drive to really excel in the role, and using him there Prandelli would not only be weakening his central defence, where Chiellini is an obvious starter, but he'd be leaving it far more exposed because the Juve star will be caught out by the pace and energy of England's wide forwards.

Darmian is the better option. The Torino defender is more usually used as a wing-back for Giampiero Ventura's side, but his versatility is key, and this season he was impressive on both flanks and even the handful of times he featured at centre-back.

Known for his excellent defensive contribution and his passing, the 24-year-old would bring solidity to Prandelli's side in a key position because England will almost certainly look to exploit Italy's weaknesses out wide.

He might not be a household name outside of Italy, but his teammates are fully aware of how effective the former Milan youth player can be. Speaking at a press conference (here in English via Football Italia), Juve's Claudio Marchisio was full of praise for the young defender, telling the gathered media:

He really impressed me in his first game against Ireland. He had a great season with Torino, as did Alessio Cerci, and I was struck by his character. He had never played with us in the qualifiers, but presented himself in great shape in his first start. Darmian is certainly an excellent player for us and we’ll see what happens in this World Cup.

The season before last, WhoScored.com ranked Darmian as Europe's best tackler. Since then, he's developed his attacking ability and improved his disciplinary record.

His physical style means that inevitably he still picks up bookings, but over the last 12 months his tackling has become more precise and could be crucial to stopping England.

Darmian lacks international experience, but he did impress on his recent debut versus Ireland, and Prandelli has so few options at full-back that he won't be afraid of picking an unproven player if he thinks he's up to the task.

De Sciglio isn't a natural left-back either, so while his loss is frustrating, it's not so serious as to derail the Azzurri's tournament in the way that an injury to Andrea Pirlo or Daniele De Rossi might.

After the season he's had in Serie A, where he was one of the league's most consistent wide players, Darmian deserves his chance against England. And if he plays to the best of his ability, he can make the role his own, even when De Sciglio returns.


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