SUEZ (Egypt): Hungary reached the semi-finals of the Under-20 World Cup on Friday by beating Italy 3-2 in an extra-time thriller that contained four red cards, 44 fouls and finished with both coaches being sent off.
Hungary will play Ghana, who beat South Korea 3-2 in the other quarter-final after goals from strikers Dominic Adiyiah and Ransford Osei.
With FIFA promoting a message of fair play before each match, Italy’s clash with Hungary was anything but.
Italy defenders Matteo Gentili, Francesco Bini and Michelangelo Albertazzi saw red, as did coach Francesco Rocca for the second time in the tournament. Hungary defender Adrian Szekeres and coach Sandor Egervari were also dismissed.
“It was our mental strength that got us through this match,” Egervari said through an interpreter. “I’ve only been in charge of this team one month, but I can feel there is something.”
Colombian referee Oscar Ruiz made a brave and correct call, awarding Hungary a penalty inside the first minute after Gentili knocked Krisztian Nemeth over.
Italy had conceded a penalty against Spain in their last match, and Vladimir Koman sent goalkeeper Vincenzo Fiorillo the wrong way from the spot to give Hungary a 1-0 lead.
Hungary threatened on their next attack when the lively Nemeth had a goal ruled out for a narrow offside decision.
Italy conjured a wonderful goal in the 82nd minute with a moment of brilliance from Giacomo Bonaventura, whose floated pass over the defence landed for Antonio Mazzotta to equalise.
Extra time was even better.
Nemeth’s two clinical goals gave Hungary the win despite another brilliant Italy goal, scored by the outstanding Bonaventura.
Italy’s players dropped to their knees in despair at the final whistle, while Hungary leaped up and down in front of Egervari, perched high up above them.
“My team will go back to Italy having played a great tournament,” Rocca said. “I told them that this will prove to be a great experience for them.”
Nemeth, who is on the books of Liverpool and currently on loan to AEK Athens, caused Italy’s defence problems with his excellent touch and intelligent runs and took his two goals superbly in extra time, although Italy were exhausted by then.
“He was signed by Liverpool, and there is a reason for that — he has real quality,” Egervari said.
Suez’s Mubarak Stadium was half-filled with military conscripts in multi-coloured tracksuits, some of whom performed an impromptu dance, while other fans joined in the chants of “Italia, Italia” as they enjoyed an improbable comeback.
Meanwhile, Osei and Adiyiah have now combined for 10 goals at the tournament.
Adiyiah is favoured to clinch the Golden Boot after taking his tally to six goals with two against South Korea, who twice rallied from two-goal deficits in front of 300 devoted supporters.
Ghana’s sloppy defending allowed South Korea back into the game with Park Hee-seong and Kim Dong-sub scoring after Adiyiah and Osei put Ghana 2-0 up inside 30 minutes.
“We have clinical strikers and that is always the strength of a team,” Ghana coach Sellas Tetteh said.
South Korea coach Hong Myung-bo agreed that Ghana’s finishing made all the difference.
“I’m quite happy with the performance of our players, even though they had some bad luck,” Myung-bo said through an interpreter. “I’m not satisfied with how we defended. We left them far too much room on the flanks. Their strikers have skill and strength, and it’s hard to stop them.” — AP