• Federico Dimarco scores one and makes another see Italy into semi-finals
  • Full-back only joined up with the side five days ago
  • Azzurrini into U-20 World Cup final four for first time

While Italy may have made it into their first ever FIFA U-20 World Cup semi-final, they have been lacking a little bit of the spark that shone as they booked their ticket to Korea Republic 2017.

If anyone had been wondering what it might have been, their questions were emphatically answered in their staggering 3-2 win over Zambia. A goal, and then a man down before half-time, no one could have guessed the introduction of Federico Dimarco to plug the hole in defence would be where the tide of the game turned.

Having struggled to contain Zambia, Italy looked more assured in their system and, while a string of saves by Andrea Zaccagno kept them in it, a stunning free-kick and extra-time assist from a corner won it for Gli Azzurrini. Having only joined up with the team on 30 May, it is fair to say their spark has well and truly returned.

Game-changer
“Fortunately, Dimarco solved [our tactical problems] as we thought we were probably going to lose,” coach Alberico Evani admitted at full time. “We only got him five days ago as he was with Empoli until that point but we’re very glad to have him with us.

“We know him very well. Last year he scored four goals in the European Championship and has the technical skill to strike the ball like he did today. Bravo to Dimarco and our spirit.”

Having been locked in a relegation battle in Serie A – one the Tuscan club he was on loan at ultimately lost – his team-mates in Korea Republic have been patiently waiting for him to arrive and make his mark. “My club needed me,” Dimarco told FIFA.com after some raucous dressing room celebrations. “I could only watch on from back home. Hopefully now we can go on and do something special in this tournament.”

And with the determination they showed to endure 75 minutes with ten men against the physically explosive Zambians, who can write them off now? “We are a team with a lot of heart, as it’s extremely tough to play almost an entire match with ten men. But we got the result because this team is a real group. We have a connection, we’ve been together for a long time and we’re friends.”

Reunion time
It was not just with his exceptional dead-ball skills – which he became renowned for at the UEFA U-19s last year – that he proved an inspirational force in Suwon, either. “During the break before extra-time I told the rest of the team that ‘we are going to score, we’re not going to penalties’ and it happened!”

The opponents who await in Jeonju in the final four know all about this fiercely-competitive full-back. A Dimarco brace – one again being a pin-point free-kick – sent England crashing out in the semi-finals in Germany. Can the Inter Milan starlet send Italy into another final at the Young Lions’ expense?