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Hungary stuns rusty champion, in friendly

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Hungary upset World Cup champion Italy 3-1 Wednesday in a friendly. The Italians, who open the Serie A this weekend, seemed out of shape and tired as the game went on.

“What else can I say after a game like this?” Hungary coach Péter Várhidi said. “I knew we had a chance if we stuck to our strategy, but this result goes beyond all my expectations.” Italy scored first when substitute Antonio Di Natale deflected a shot by Filippo Inzaghi 14 meters (yards) from goal in the 49th minute. Hungary, led by a strong defense anchored by Ádám Vass and Tamás Vasko, retaliated quickly. Gianluca Zambrotta failed to clear a ball into the middle of the penalty area. Vasko headed Zambrotta’s pop up to Roland Juhasz, who beat Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon with a left-footed volley in the 62nd minute. “We came up against a team that was fresher than us and more interested in taking control of the game,” Italy coach Roberto Donadoni said. “We played well for stretches in the first half, then we lost our focus when it was 1-1.”

Hungary scored again just three minutes later, when Zoltán Gera converted a penalty kick awarded after Italy captain Fabio Cannavaro brought down Tamás Priskin near the back line. Cannavaro’s evening to forget was crowned by Hungary’s third goal. Gera swiped the ball from him at the top of the penalty area and broke toward Buffon before passing to Robert Feczesin, who converted easily in the 76th minute. A free kick in the 80th minute by Fabio Grosso and a volley inside the penalty area in the 86th by Massimo Ambrosini which went over the crossbar of Hungary goalkeeper Márton Fülöp were Italy’s best scoring chances in the second half.

The match was billed as a warm-up for both teams before Euro 2008 qualifying matches on Sept. 8, when Italy will host France in Milan and Hungary plays Bosnia-Herzegovina in Budapest. “When you lose 3-1 you can’t be pleased,” Donadoni said. “Our condition will improve though. We’ve got two rounds (of Serie A) before the France game — two rounds to find the necessary spirit and energy to be ready.”

The win was Hungary’s first over Italy since a 2-1 victory in a friendly on June 27, 1965. Italy, which has won its last five games, is second in Group B with 16 points, two behind leader France. Scotland is third with 15 points. Hungary is fourth in Group C with six points, seven behind Bosnia-Herzegovina, Turkey and Norway, which are tied for second place. Greece leads the group with 18 points.

Genaro Gattuso was left out of starting lineup for Italy at the last minute due to a left knee injury. He was hurt slightly in training on Wednesday. Donadoni said Marco Materazzi had to be taken off in the second half due to a thigh injury, but did not provide further details. (iht.com)

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