Goals from Giacomo Raspadori and Federico Dimarco steered Italy through to the Nations League finals at Hungary’s expense, as the visitors claimed a 2-0 win in Budapest.
Heading into Monday’s final fixture in Group A3, Hungary needed only a draw to complete a remarkable run through the competition to next year’s four-team fight for the top prize.
But Roberto Mancini’s European champions, still smarting from their failure to qualify for the 2022 World Cup, delivered a composed performance to break their opponents’ hearts in a taut encounter.
Marco Rossi’s side can nevertheless take pride in their achievements, following a campaign that saw them defeat England twice and Germany once to finish second in the end.
Amid raucous home support urging them on to make history, they had looked bullish from the off, with Dominik Szoboszlai offering an early threat for the hosts.
But Hungary were undone by their lacklustre awareness at the back, and when Wilfried Gnonto pressed Adam Nagy’s soft back-pass off Peter Gulacsi, Raspadori was able to round the prone keeper for a simple finish.
Italy held a one-goal lead through to the interval, and it took just seven minutes for them to double it afterwards, with Dimarco getting across Loic Nego at the far post to crash Bryan Cristante’s cross into the roof of the net.
Hungary pushed for a response late on, but none was forthcoming – and with the full-time whistle, it was the Azzurri who booked their spot alongside Croatia and the Netherlands for next year’s finale.