Luis Fernando Tena (pictured) returned for his fourth stint as Cruz Azul head coach last December. (Photo: Mexsport)
TOLUCA, Mexico – Since Cruz Azul and Toluca shared the spoils in both legs of their 2013-14 CONCACAF Champions League final series, perhaps it was appropriate that both head coaches were equally ebullient in praise of their players’ performances.
Thanks to Mariano Pavone’s first-half strike, Cruz Azul captured the trophy on the away-goals rule. The Mexico City-based side won a record-breaking sixth CONCACAF championship and first since 1997.
Luis Fernando Tena was the head coach then and now. His pride following Wednesday’s second leg was unmistakable.
“We knew that things were going to be even,” said Tena. “The character of my players is what gave us the title. We went through the final minutes with much distress. Toluca did well in the match. They played well. We knew that it was going to be difficult.”
After a spell as an assistant and interim head coach for Mexico, the 56-year-old returned to Cruz Azul for a fourth time in December, replacing Guillermo Vasquez. The sensation of delivering a title to the club and its fans supporters left him delighted.
“It is a joy,” Tena declared. “I feel the colors of the club. I feel the institution. I feel the gratitude of the fans to give them this joy.”
Now Tena will have the chance to lead Cruz Azul in the next FIFA Club World Cup, where he hopes to represent Mexico and the region in the best way possible.
“To win the CCL is important and more important is to represent Mexican football and also CONCACAF football in the Club World Cup,” he concluded.
Toluca manager Jose Cardozo won the 2003 CONCACAF Champions Cup with the Red Devils as a player. Though disappointed with the final outcome, he could not hide his admiration for the team, which did not lose any of its 10 CCL games.
“I want to congratulate my players because they wore themselves out,” expressed Cardozo. “They left everything on the field. We did everything possible to be champions. We did not have forcefulness. One that we let pass by in the final minute. We were hit by losing, but we go out with our heads high. We left unbeaten, but it hurts a little having lost.”