Italy will have the chance to defend their UEFA European Under-21 Championship title after a 1-0 win against Hungary in torrential rain in Fermo earned them a 2-1 aggregate success in their play-off match. Gianpaolo Pazzini scored the decisive goal for the Azzurrini early in the second half.
Italy coach Claudio Gentile made only one change from the team which earned a 1-1 draw in the first leg in Budapest, fielding Marino Defendi on the right wing in place of Daniele Galloppa. Meanwhile Antal Roth replaced the suspended Péter Mátéwith with Csaba Regedei in defence.
On an extremely heavy pitch, both sides failed to create many serious opportunities to score. Italy forward Simone Pepe wasted the best chance of the opening period, heading wide from close range after connecting with a precise cross by Paolo Sammarco.
Hungary, however, were the better side in the final minutes before the interval and had the home side hemmed back inside their own half. Tamás Priskin posed a threat for the visitors even though Azzurrini goalkeeper Gianluca Curci remained a mere spectator.
Three minutes into the second half, Italy took the lead. Pazzini won a ball in midfield and passed to Alessandro Rosina, who fed Giorgio Chiellini on the left. The Juventus FC left-back then crossed in and the on-rushing Pazzini headed home from close range.
After breaking the deadlock Italy had the game under control and continued to threaten through Pepe and Pazzini, while Hungary's best effort on goal came with a long-range effort by Szabolcs Huszti which failed to trouble Curci.
A final Hungarian push prompted a stern rearguard action from Italy, with centre-backs Michele Canini and Cesare Bovo proving impressive. The Azzurrini, who have won five of the last seven U21 championships, already look like they will be strong candidates for a sixth next year.