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Hungary Italians march onto Nations League Finals

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Italy advanced to the UEFA Nations League (UNL) semi-finals, breaking Hungarian hearts in a perfect away performance at the Puskás Aréna.

It was winner-take-all in Budapest, and the pressure seemed to be getting to the experienced Péter Gulácsi in the early stages, as he very nearly spilled Giacomo Raspadori’s cross into his own net. The Napoli forward was a constant threat for the visitors, and seized on some more Hungarian nervousness to put his side ahead. A poor pass back to the goalkeeper was seized on by Wilfried Gnonto who tackled Gulácsi, allowing the ball to run free for Raspadori, who showed tremendous composure to finish.

Italy continued to threaten through their high press system. The wing-backs were incredibly high up the field, and that allowed Giovanni Di Lorenzo a couple of goalscoring opportunities, but he was narrowly wide on both occasions. Marco Rossi’s men eventually got a foothold in the game and really ought to have equalised as HT approached, but Willi Orbán somehow missed from point-blank range.

The Magyars flew out of the traps after the restart and left the capacity crowd bewildered that they failed to score. Gianluigi Donnarumma was at his inspiring best to make an outrageous triple save, denying Loïc Négo, Callum Styles and finally Ádám Szalai from point-blank range. The goalkeeper’s heroics were rewarded almost immediately, as Roberto Mancini’s men executed a brutal sucker punch. Bryan Cristante’s low cross from the right was turned home by Federico Dimarco, deflating the home faithful.

Hungary now had a mountain to climb, and Donnarumma was the man guarding it. Négo found Styles at the back post, and his low header was well directed, but somehow kept out by the sprawling leg of the Azzurri stopper. The Italians’ wall stood firm to secure a second successive appearance at the UNL finals, while Hungary were unable to mark Szalai’s farewell with a win, missing out on a first semi-final of a major international tournament in 50 years.

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