Chiefy just delivered the best press conference of the season & it had EVERYTHING

Wellington Phoenix coach Giancarlo Italiano speaks to the media ahead of the Semi-Final second leg against Melbourne Victory at a sold-out Sky Stadium.

As Giancarlo Italiano fronted the media, he stood there smiling and it was a sign of things to come on the eve of Wellington Phoenix’s biggest ever fixture in their history.

“I’d be lying if I said I’ve had a good weeks sleep,” Italiano told reporters as he started his MD-1 press conference with a smile on Friday.

Nicknamed ‘Chiefy’, the Wellington Phoenix head coach’s press conferences are always must-watch and it was no different the day before the club’s historic Semi-Final second leg against Melbourne Victory at Sky Stadium, which is officially sold out for Saturday’s blockbuster which is deadlocked at 0-0 following the opening leg.

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The press conference had absolutely everything as the Phoenix boss touched on penalty preparations, the finance market, 1992 European Cup final and why he was scrolling through social media at 2:30am.

“It’s been very exciting. Even yesterday I felt there was a nice uneasy feeling going into this weekend. We’re going to create history no matter what, which is great,” said Italiano, who is in his first season as a head coach in the Isuzu UTE A-League.

“We’ve gone above and beyond what everyone thought and now we just want to enjoy the game. It’s a celebration about what we’ve done, a celebration of the football, it’s also a celebration for the team themselves being against the odds and doing something fantastic.

“We’re going to try to put a show on for our fans. Tomorrow is sold out – historic. It will be a memory for New Zealand football in general.”

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Italiano added: “If you’re not going to enjoy these moments – a full crowd, everyone behind you, the fact we’ve achieved so much – then we’re not going to enjoy anything in life.

“We will treat it like a game but the build-up and the fact we’ve accomplished so much, I want the boys to appreciate that.”

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Wellington are unbeaten against Victory this season, having won one of the four matches this term. The other three have all been draws.

So, how much work has gone into the possibility of penalty shoot-outs?

“At the end of every session, we’ve addressed penalties,” said Italiano, who revealed there will be a special guest for the ‘Nix on Saturday.

“Even yesterday, we tried to put a scenario basis on it. I’ll time-limit some players with penalties, then get some other boys to rile up a response – they can be abusive. Just to get them comfortable with being uncomfortable.”

Italiano added: “What we did yesterday – we had 20 players. We divided them into four groups of five. Then we went through a rank of order and there was a reward for the team that won and the team who came last got a punishment.

“That’s to continuously keep them on edge and that there’s always something to play for. Then with some players, I created a scenario where I gave them five seconds and then some players I just delayed it as long as possible. Sometimes I went and kicked the ball away.

“Just stuff to get them comfortable with the fact that sometimes referees take forever to blow the whistle, sometimes they blow it straight away. That feeling where you’re just waiting to take a penalty, can be the longest time in the game. They need to get comfortable with that.”

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Either way, Italiano “definitely won’t be watching” the penalties.

“I’ll be looking to the crowd for a response,” he said.

The press conference, lasting almost 20 minutes, then turned to Italiano’s wake-up time on Friday.

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“This morning was later – 7:15am, because I went to bed around 2:30,am” he said.

Asked what he was doing at 2:30am, Italiano replied: “I was on Twitter, reading to see if there was any Melbourne Victory news.”

Another reporter then asked what Italiano did on the drive into training, in which the Australian coach – who revealed he had a long black coffee for breakfast with an extra shot – said: “What’s happening with financial markets and crypto.”

Italiano – who revealed he might purchase a new outfit for Saturday’s showdown once he has consulted his mother – then provided an insight into his most painful memory as a football fan growing up.

“Okay, I’m going to share the most disappointing thing that’s ever happened in my life,” he started.

“It was the 1992 Champions League final between Sampdoria and Barcelona. I still to this day curse a couple of the players on the Sampdoria team that missed some big, big chances.

“I curse the referee who gave a free-kick, which wasn’t a free-kick outside the box and then (Ronald) Koeman smashed it in the near post at Gianluca Pagliuca and I’m still bitter to this day.

“So do I get excited? I try not to because I just remember that (smiling).”

Italiano – who said it is hard now to step out in public amid the popularity of himself and the team – also touched on his game-day ritual, which involves golf, walking his dog and visiting some friends.

He then highlighted Argentina’s triumphant 2022 FIFA Men’s World Cup in Qatar when asked if he feared the pressure would get to Wellington.


“You could’ve asked that against Macarthur (in the club’s final regular-season game) when there was so much on the line,” Italiano said.

“I don’t think we buckled once. It might have been just one or two moments that were defining.

“At every challenge, the boys have stepped up. I think they will embrace tomorrow. Are we going to suffer as a team? I think that’s normal and that’s football.

“If you look at Argentina at the World Cup and when they won it, every game it looked like they were going to lose and they just pulled it out.

“Being an Argentina fan, you just have to suffer. We will go through that tomorrow. There’s going to be times where we’re under the pump. We might not be or there might be a scenario where we have to chase the game and have to really show some grit and character.”