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Fear factor? Not with the kids

By Paul Kennedy

in Seoul

When the United States played Germany in the 1998 World Cup, Landon Donovan was in first-period math class at Redlands East Valley High School.

''My teacher was very good about it,'' says Donovan, who was in 10th grade. ''Usually, she'd let us work on our homework the last 15 minutes of class. She let me sit in the corner and watch the game on TV.''

Four years later, Donovan will be playing Germany in the quarterfinals of the 2002 World Cup.

In the last four years, Donovan has played in the Pan-American Games and Gold Cup. The World Cup is his fourth world championship in less than three years. Buddy DaMarcus Beasley has been with Donovan every step of the way -- 1999 U-17 World Cup, 2001 U-20 World Cup -- with the exception of the Olympics, for which he was not selected.

If you're looking for one of the reasons for American success at the World Cup, it's the confidence of these young players. Not surprising when you consider the success they've had.

''Look at all the championships I've been to -- third at the Pan-Ams, fourth at the 17s, fourth at the Olympics,'' says Donovan, who was also a starter on the U.S. team that won the 2002 Gold Cup. ''I'm sort of expecting [success]. I'm not sweating it. Fate? Luck? It keeps happening.''

Arena has been impressed with the maturity of his 20-year-old star.

''Landon has never been overwhelmed by big games.'' says the U.S. coach. ''He's played up to his ability each and every game.''

Beasley has little fear of the Germans, though he admits their size is overwhelming.

''They're some big boys,'' says Beasley, the lightest player in the World Cup at 126 pounds. ''I haven't played them, but I've seen them work out.''

Beasley is confident he can take on the Germans.

''I can push with the best of them,'' says the Chicago Fire player. ''I can be feisty. They're not gods. They're human.''

He says the U.S. should go after Germany.

''We should press them,'' he says. ''We should put them on their heels. We need to press them up high.''

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