He was in the hotel, two days before the return leg of Tottenham's Champions League semifinal clash with Ajax when the game flashed back into his mind. "I remember that game, because nobody believed in us" he late remarked at a press conference where no one knew anything about the match he was referring to. Pochettino's memory was of June 3rd, 1992. The night in Cali when his Newell's side, managed by Marcelo Bielsa, eliminated América de Cali after 26 penalties in the Libertadores semifinal.
Pochettino was just 20 that night, a well-regarded defender, already an Argentine champion, now in search of continental glory "In that semifinal, we were really brave, even if we didn't play that bravely. We scored early, and then we parked the bus, tried to play on the counter-attack, we defended. The whole time. But it was an incredible match. [América] equalized in the last minute so we went to penalties. I think we took 26 penalties combined, it was the longest in the Libertadores (ed note: a record later equalized by Newell's in a 2013 quarterfinal match against Boca Juniors) it was insane."
It was Pochettino himself who scored to give Newell's the early lead. After each side's first 6 takers converted from the spot, Pochettino stepped up and sent his effort into the stands, but was saved when the Newell's goalkeeper saved América's ensuing effort. So it went for another 12 attempts, with Newell's finally sealing the tie 11-10.
🔴⚫ Another remarkable penalty shootout for @CANOBoficial_en!
🔙 #OnThisDay in 1992, Newell´s, managed by the great Marcelo Bielsa, qualified for the #Libertadores final after an 11-10 victory on penalties against @AmericadeCali. pic.twitter.com/rgnWSvqyux — CONMEBOL Libertadores (@TheLibertadores) June 3, 2020
Spurs meanwhile had lost the first leg 1-0 in London ahead of Pochettinos comments in Amsterdam, and quickly fell behind 2-0 in the second leg, but a trio of second half tallies, capped off by Lucas Moura in the 96th minute, sent Tottenham into the Champions league final. Ahead of the match, Pochettino remarked, "that Libertadores match shows that anything is possible if you play ccourageously and with a winning mentality." How right he was.