Hungary and Italy are set for a top-of-the-table clash in the Nations League A, with a place in next summer’s final at stake.
Hungary have surpassed expectations and ousted the likes of England and Germany en route to topping the group ahead of the last game. Their next hurdle would be Italy, who lurk behind them, trailing by two points. A top-2 finish is a certainty, but the hosts will be eager to finish at the summit in what has been the toughest group of this competition.
Hungary continued to surprise everyone in these Nations League fixtures and beat Germany in Leipzig. Veteran striker Adam Szalai’s back heel flick in the 17th minute was enough for the away side to pick all three points. The 34-year-old forward also announced his retirement, which will be after the Italy clash.
Hungary will surely aim to surpass the Italians and register their name in next summer’s finals. However, even if they fail to make the grade, their rise to Group A from the Nations League third tier in 2018 is a commendable achievement.
After a troublesome summer, which saw Italy fail to qualify for the Qatar World Cup, the Azzurri have been on the right trajectory ever since. Roberto Mancini knows nothing short of a victory in Budapest would do for Italy, as he looks to reaffirm his belief in his side.
? "This is one of the best teams in the world."
Roberto Mancini is complimentary towards England despite their recent run of poor results pic.twitter.com/xFEgPKgy12
— Football Daily (@footballdaily) September 24, 2022
Italy certainly showed grit in their victory over England during the week in Milan. Giacomo Raspadori’s goal midway through the second half was enough to secure three points and condemn Gareth Southgate’s side to the bottom of the group, with relegation to Group B confirmed.
Mancini will certainly take confidence from Italy’s previous result against Hungary. That loss was Hungary’s only one in this Nations League campaign, but the Azzurri will be hopeful of topping this group with a win in Budapest.
Team News & Tactics
The fixture will be focused on captain Adam Szalai featuring in his last international game for Hungary. Dominik Szoboszlai and Daniel Gazdag will partner with him in a three-man attack. The home side will continue to deploy a back three.
?? Hungary beat Germany for the first time since 2004 ???
— UEFA Nations League (@EURO2024) September 23, 2022
Loic Nego will keep his place at right wing-back, while teenager Milos Kerkez hopes to impress further on the left-hand side after a fantastic debut against Germany in Leipzig. Regular starter Zsolt Nagy remains out through an injury.
Willi Orban, Adam Lang and Attila Szalai will keep the backline tight with Peter Gulasci firmly settled between the sticks. Andras Schafer and Adam Nagy will keep their place in central midfield, with Nego and Kerkez playing as wing-backs.
Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1) – Gulasci; Lang, Orban, Szalai; Nego, Schafer, Ad Nagy, Kerkez; Gazdag, Szoboszlai; Ad Szalai
There have been considerable changes to the Italian squad since this round of fixtures began. Due to injuries, Marco Verratti, Sandro Tonali and Lorenzo Pellegrini have withdrawn from the team. Davide Frattesi and Manolo Gabbiadini have been called to the side, with the latter returning to the international fold after five years.
— Italy ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (@Azzurri_En) September 24, 2022
Former Sassuolo teammates Gianluca Scamacca and Raspodori will form a two-prone attack. Ciro Immobile will likely be on the bench if he is match fit after missing out on the previous game with a thigh problem.
Rafael Toloi’s impressive performance against England will let him stay in the back three alongside Leonardo Bonucci and Alessandro Bastoni. Giovanni Di Lorenzo and Federico Dimarco will keep their places as wing-backs.
Mancini will file a midfield trio of Nicolo Barella, Jorginho and Fratessi as the manager hopes to lay a strong foundation in the middle. Other options exist, but the trio mentioned above is Italy’s best bet.
Probable Lineup (3-5-2) – Donnarumma; Toloi, Bonucci, Bastoni; Di Lorenzo, Barella, Jorginho, Fratessi, Dimarco; Raspodori, Scamacca
- Hungary have lost only once in this Nations League campaign.
- Hungary have four victories in their last six matches in all competitions.
- Hungary would qualify for the Nations League finals with a win or a draw against Italy.
- Italy have two wins in their last six games in all competitions.
- Italy beat Hungary in the last round of fixtures during this Nations League campaign.
Player to Watch
These 2 Nations League fixtures will be Ádám Szalai’s final games as the Hungarian captain — he announced that he will retire from national duty. In his place, Péter Gulácsi is set to take over the armband.
Thanks for everything, Captain ❤️?? pic.twitter.com/UL8VfllFvd
— Hungarian Football ?? (@HungarianFooty) September 21, 2022
In a rather unconventional way, Szalai is set to end his international reign with Hungary and will be hoping to secure his team a place in the next summer’s finals. The captain scored the only goal last week to beat Germany and will surely be in inspired form ahead of his final outing.
The 34-year-old will be privileged to finish his career in front of his home crowd. However, Szalai will have to leave emotions aside before this crucial encounter against Italy, as he will certainly know the importance of not losing against the Azzurri.
Hungary 1-1 Italy
These two teams were not expected to stay at the top of a group featuring Germany and England. Combined with England and Germany’s terrible form during this campaign, Hungary and Italy have done their best so far to have a chance of reaching next summer’s finals.
Barring Hungary’s huge win over England in the last round, they have been otherwise goal-shy. The same goes for Italy, who have managed to secure points with narrow scorelines. This game looks poised to end in an entertaining draw with a low scoreline.