Marcelo Bielsa developing Leeds United's potential England stars eighteen years after Whites pair inflicted pain on Argentina
LEEDS United midfielder Kalvin Phillips might well have been an England international by now.
Phillips was thought to be heading for his first international call-up for the April friendlies against Denmark and Italy until the games were cancelled due to the nation's fight against coronavirus.
Nonetheless, hopes are high that Leeds United Football Club will soon have their next England international with Ben White and Jack Harrison also tipped for future Three Lions calls.
And 18 years ago today, two Whites players helped their country sink an old enemy at the 2002 World Cup as Sven-Göran Eriksson's England recorded a 1-0 victory against an Argentina team managed by today's Leeds United head coach Marcelo Bielsa.
Danny Mills and Rio Ferdinand were the two Leeds players in question with the duo having helped David O'Leary's Whites to a fifth-placed finish in the 2001-02 Premier League.
Mills and Ferdinand then formed part of a Whites quartet boarding the plane to Asia as part of Eriksson's squad for the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea.
England were looking to end what was then 36 years of hurt with the Three Lions seeking a better showing than the one experienced in the 1998 World Cup in France in which Glen Hoddle's side crashed out in the last 16. On penalties. Obviously.
But a group stage fixture at the 2002 World Cup four years later offered England the chance to exact revenge against the side who had dealt that penalties blow - Argentina.
The two sides formed part of a tricky looking Group F that also featured Nigeria and Eriksson's native Sweden side.
England took on Sweden first on June 2 with right-back Mills and centre-back Ferdinand playing the full 90 minutes in a 1-1 draw as Sol Campbell's opener was cancelled out by Niclas Alexandersson.
Fowler and Martyn stayed on the bench as Michael Owen and Darius Vassell started upfront with David Seaman in goal.
The unconvincing draw placed even more importance on England gaining a positive result against an Argentina side managed by none other than present day Whites head coach Bielsa.
Former Newell's Old Boys, Atlas, América, Vélez Sarsfield and Espanyol boss Bielsa had taken the Argentina job in 1998 - after the conclusion of that year's World Cup in which Daniel Passarella's Argentina were beaten in the quarter-finals by Holland.
A 43-year-old Bielsa then took charge after Passarella left the post and Bielsa's side were knocked out of the 1999 Copa America in Paraguay at the quarter-finals stage via a 2-1 loss to Brazil.
But Bielsa's team then stormed their way to qualification for the 2002 World Cup with 13 wins, four draws and just one loss in the CONMEBOL qualifying section of which Argentina finished top and 12 points clear of Ecuador.
A Gabriel Batistuta strike gave Bielsa's side a 1-0 victory in their 2002 World Cup opener against Nigeria and a star-studded team featuring Batistuta, Diego Simeone, Mauricio Pochettino, Juan Veron and Ariel Ortega lined up against the Three Lions with Hernán Crespo only making the bench.
Yet Whites duo Ferdinand and Mills helped England keep a clean sheet en route to victory as David Beckham bagged the only goal of the game with a 44th-minute penalty awarded for Pochettino's trip on Owen who had earlier thumped the post.
Argentina came roaring back after the break with Whites skipper Ferdinand making a crucial clearance before Seaman cleared Pochettino's header from a corner off the line.
Yet England recorded their first victory against Argentina for 22 years and the defeat spelt the beginning of the end of the 2002 Word Cup for Argentina who were then held to a 1-1 draw against group winners Sweden in their final group game.
That meant England squeezed into the last 16 as group runners-up despite being held to a goalless draw in their final group game against Nigeria.
England then cruised past Denmark with a 3-0 win in the last 16 but more heartache followed in the quarter finals with a 2-1 defeat to eventual winners Brazil for whom Ronaldinho's free-kick outfoxed Seaman for the winner. Ronaldinho was later sent off for his late challenge on Mills.
Bielsa, meanwhile, stayed on at Argentina who went on to become runners-up in the 2002 Copa America in Peru, beaten 4-2 on penalties in the final against Brazil.
Bielsa then steered Argentina to a gold medal at the following month's Olympics in Athens and finally ended his six-year tenure by resigning at the end of the year.
Spells in charge of the Chile national side before Athletic Bilbao, Marseille, Lazio and Lille followed - and then Leeds.
Eighteen years on from defeat to England, it is Bielsa's sterling work with Phillips that has Leeds not only poised for a return to the Premier League but also appearing set to congratulate their next Three Lions international.
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