By Sean O'Connor
We’re well into the knockout phases of the World Cup. Unbelievably, Costa Rica have defied all the odds to make the quarter final, whilst the likes of Messi, Neymar, Robben and Benzema have all lit up our TV’s with some truly dazzling performances.
Sadly, none of our players are flying the Leeds flag in Brazil this summer but that’s a far cry from the glory days when World Cup winners were bursting out of the Elland Road changing rooms.
But we’ll be back in the big time soon enough and in the spirit of nostalgia, let’s take a look at the Whites who have shone on the world’s biggest stage.
Representing Leeds and his native South Africa in both the 1998 and 2002 World Cup, Lucas Radebe had an illustrious career, spending over 10 years at the top of his game and captaining his nation and club to relative success.
A Leeds legend, he turned down the chance to join Manchester United, whilst Leeds Brewery even immortalised him with a special brew – the Radebeer. His World Cup efforts sadly didn’t see him-or his nation- progress far but he did get himself on the score sheet when he equalised against Spain in a 2002 group match.
One of the Premier League’s most prolific strikers, Mark Viduka guided the Whites into the upper echelons of the Premier League as well as the Champions League Semi-Final back in 2001.
On the international circuit, he was just as vital for Australia, leading his side in the 2006 World Cup where the socceroos earned their first ever Finals victory.
The 26-year-old will certainly be disappointed not to be featuring in the 2014 World Cup Second round fixtures after Greece snuck through the group with a 90th minute penalty in Fortaleza to send his Ivory Coast team packing.
Gradel – who left Leeds in 2011 after 22 goals in 63 league appearances – took part in his first major tournament this summer, starting in the 2-1 defeat to Colombia alongside the likes of Yaya Toure, Cheick Tiote and Wilfried Bony.
Our very own World Cup winner, Jack Charlton played alongside Norman Hunter in the 1966 tournament in England when the Three Lions famously went on to defeat West Germany in the Wembley final. Jack served his country once again four years later as part of a squad that featured four Leeds men. Although in Mexico, the Germans got their revenge.
In total, the central defender made 762 appearances for Leeds, a club record and he tasted World Cup success once more when he led the Republic of Ireland to their best finish at a major tournament at USA 94.
Making 170 league appearances for Leeds, the no-nonsense forward joined a plethora of Whites stars that became affectionately known as the ‘Scottish Mafia’. Lining up alongside David Harvey, Peter Lorimer, Gordon McQueen and of course Billy Bremner, Scotland went unbeaten at the 1974 championships but exited the group stage due to their inferior goal difference.
Jordan continued to represent his country until the 1982 tournament, where he scored in a 2-2 draw with the USSR, and he still retains the title of being the only Scot to have scored in three successive World Cups.
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