CAIRO - Hungary started with a humiliating loss to Honduras but are now one game from their first Under-20 World Cup final, thanks largely to Liverpool players Peter Gulacsi and Krisztian Nemeth.
Hungary have not progressed from the group stage in four previous appearances, and that poor record looked like continuing after a 3-0 defeat to Honduras.
But Hungary then scored 11 goals in four matches to set up today's semifinal against Ghana, with Gulacsi and Nemeth making vital contributions.
"Mentally, we are definitely stronger now," Gulacsi said. "We have already proved that we are better than what we showed in the first game."
Gulacsi said the Honduras' loss may have actually done the team a favour.
"We sat down with the coaches, we analysed the mistakes, we tried to correct the mistakes," Gulacsi said.
"Maybe we were too nervous before the game and we didn't know what to expect . 3-0 was a shock for us."
Nemeth said Hungary, who had not played at this tournament since losing all their group games in 1997, had started with the wrong attitude.
"(Our) mentality was not so good, afterwards we became better organised," said Nemeth, who played in Liverpool's pre-season friendlies and is now on loan at Greek club AEK Athens to gain experience.
Though Hungary midfielder Vladimir Koman's silky skills have contributed three goals - including two penalties - Gulacsi and Nemeth have been the most decisive players at crucial times. Nemeth was fouled for Koman's early penalty, and scored twice in extra time to finally break Italy's resistance in a thrilling 3-2 quarterfinal win on Friday.
Gulacsi made three saves in the penalty shootout win against 2007 finalists the Czech Republic in the last 16. "The best thing in our team is the group, we have a really good team spirit," Gulacsi said. "One day the striker is playing well, one day the goalkeeper (is), we are always helping each other. We have really good quality up front and a strong defence."
Nemeth is hitting top form after shaking off a slight ankle injury.
Strikers Dominic Adiyiah - the tournament's top scorer with six - and Ransford Osei have 10 goals so far for Ghana.
"They are a very good team, quick and strong," Nemeth said. "We have so many (good) defenders, so we (will) play counterattack or something."
Hungary's senior team has virtually no chance of securing a playoff spot for the World Cup after Saturday's 3-0 loss to Portugal, so a win for its Under-20 side against Ghana will give hope to the nation's long-suffering fans. - Sapa-AP