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Italy beat Hungary 2-0 to go the Final Four: Raspadori and Dimarco score, then the Donnarumma show

Jack breaks the deadlock in Budapest before the Inter defender doubles the lead, scoring the 1500th goal in the Azzurri's history. Donnarumma makes a series of spectacular saves. For the second consecutive year, Italy reach the Nations League Final stages

Monday, September 26, 2022

Italy beat Hungary 2-0 to go the Final Four: Raspadori and Dimarco score, then the Donnarumma show

The Jack, the three and the ace: these were the three winning cards of Roberto Mancini's Azzurri side, where at the Puskas Arena, roared on by 60,000 home fans, they beat Hungary 2-0 with goals from the two best men on the pitch against England, Giacomo Raspadori and Federico Dimarco, and also in part to some outstanding saves by Gigio Donnarumma. For the second consecutive year, Italy have qualified for the Nations League Final Four stage where they will hope to clinch another trophy for the cabinet room next June, after the last one two years ago at Wembley. The huge disappointment at not qualifying for the World Cup remains, but once again when the chips are down, the Azzurri know how to find the strength to react. Despite the many injuries in the squad in this camp, Roberto Mancini's side have shown in 180 minutes they can mix football and fight, technical quality and heart, earning first place in a group that saw two superpowers in England and Germany and the surprise package of the campaign, Hungary.

THE MATCH. The impressive performance against England pushed Mancini into starting with the 3-5-2 formation again with only one change being made, Scamacca being replaced by Wilfried Gnonto, forming an agile attacking threat with Raspadori. Last June, the Leeds striker, born in 2003, made his starting debut against Hungary, making up a front three of Raspadori and Politano, and they gave the Hungarian defence the runaround. Also Marco Rossi, former Sampdoria teammate of Mancini, stuck with his 3-4-2-1 that successfully took the scalps of England and Germany, with Nego prefered to Gazdag and the talented Szoboszlai playing just off Adam Szalai, who was playing his last ever game for the team and who was visibly moved during the pre-match national anthems.

Hungary, with the best defence in the group with only three goals conceded, set up, as they often do out of possession, in a five giving Italy lots of the ball early on. But inside five minutes, the away side were inches away of taking the lead: Cristante's cross slipped Gulacsi's fingers but Attila Szalai saved the day by clearing the ball away off the goal line. The Azzurri again went close after 12 minutes through Di Lorenzo, but the Napoli defender's header went just wide after a Raspadori free-kick. The match was energetic and fast-paced, just as the 60,000 Hungarian fans were inside the Puskas Arena. But after 27 minutes, it was Giacomo Raspadori who silenced them taking advantage of a defensive error to grab his fifth goal for the national side, and his second in three days. Credit must go to Gnonto though, who anticipated well Pisa midfielder Nagy's pass back to the keeper, eventually colliding with him making the ball fall to Raspadori's feet, who didn't miss up the opportunity. Italy deservedly went 1-0 up. The lead was nearly doubled soon after as Raspadori played in Di Lorenzo; he controlled well, cut back onto his left foot but his shot curled just wide of the far post. The goal shook Hungary up as they tried to get more possession in Italy's half but their only real chance of the opening 45 minutes came to defender Attila Szalai, but he was unable to hit the target from a few yards out after a set-piece.

Both sides made a change at half-time but it didn't change anything from a tactical point of view: Bastoni replaced the yellow-carded Acerbi and Styles for Nagy. The match, though, was decided inside five minutes of the restart: first, Donnarumma made a stunning triple save, then one of the star performers of the night for the Azzurri, Federico Dimarco, popped up to grab Italy's 1500th goal in its history, and the first for the Inter defender. A superb bit of play saw the move start off with a one-two between Raspadori and Jorginho before reaching Barella; he played a deep ball to Cristante who crossed low across the face of goal for Dimarco to tap in at the far post, 2-0. But the man of the match must surely go to Gigio Donnarumma who made two further stops from Styles to keep the clean sheet in tact: first, he kept out a header with the goal wide open and then a shot from long-range that took an awkward deflection off Bonucci. Off went Gnonto for Gabbiadini, with Hungary camped in the Italian half pushing for a goal to get back into the game.

With the Azzurri on the back foot, Mancini decided to put on Pobega and Scamacca in place of Jorginho and Raspadori. It was a move that worked as Marco Rossi's side slowly ran out of ideas. In the closing stages, Scamacca could have made it 3-0 after Dimarco's attempt was blocked by Gulacsi with the West Ham striker hitting the rebound into the side-netting. In the last minute of normal time, Pasquale Mazzocchi became Mancini's 51st debutant but there was little time left for him to make any impact and shortly after the final whistle blew to a standing ovation around the ground, as the Hungarian fans cheered their team and congratulated Italy reaching the Final Four stages, where they will face Croatia, The Netherlands, and one of Spain or Portugal next June.

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