Mauricio Pochettino: Tottenham need bravery against Ajax
Last Updated: 08/05/19 8:48am
Mauricio Pochettino believes Tottenham can progress to the Champions League final if they play with bravery and a winning mentality against Ajax.
Spurs travel to Amsterdam on Wednesday looking to overturn last week's 1-0 first-leg deficit and book a first ever European Cup final appearance.
They may require something special against the Dutch side, who have beaten Real Madrid and Juventus in previous rounds, but that is something Pochettino knows all about from his playing days in South America.
The Argentinian was a member of the Newell's Old Boys side that reached the Copa Libertadores final in 1992 after a thrilling second-leg last-four victory against Colombian side America de Cali.
After the first leg finished 1-1 in Argentina, Newell's completed the job in Colombia with a penalty shoot-out win to set up a final appearance with Sao Paulo.
But that does not tell even half of the story.
Pochettino, a 20-year-old making his way in the game, headed his side into an early lead against Cali before, as he admitted, they 'parked the bus'.
It looked like they were going to hold out until Cali earned a last-gasp leveller when Jorge Da Silva converted from the spot.
A goalless extra time meant the tie would be decided by penalties and that was when the real drama began, with the longest shoot-out in Copa Libertadores history.
Pochettino was again in the thick of the action as he missed the seventh penalty, with a horrible skied effort, but his goalkeeper Norberto Scoponi rescued him with two saves as Newell's claimed an incredible 11-10 victory.
They went on to lose to a star-studded Sao Paulo in the final but the game lives long in Pochettino's memory.
"It was crazy. I remember this game, how no one believed in us. They were the favourites. It was all prepared," he said.
"I remember this semi-final because we were so brave. Actually, we didn't play so bravely! Because we scored early and then we parked the bus. And we tried to play counter-attack.
"Yes, it's true, we defended all the time. But yes, it was an amazing game."
Pochettino was disappointed with Tottenham''s display in the opening 30 minutes of the first leg against Ajax last week, before a more direct and physical approach showed that the Dutch side can be got at.
And he believes progression is possible if Spurs replicate the type of bravery his Newell's team showed 27 years ago.
"It's possible if you play bravely and play with a winning mentality," he said. "That is the most important thing.
"I think you, the fans, mostly the players - we feel all disappointed because we didn't start the game, playing a semi-final of the Champions League.
"We didn't translate the emotion or the image that we were playing in a Champions League semi-final.
"That is why we feel very, very disappointed after the first leg."