[BRAZIL 2014]Seven players played in their fourth World Cup in Brazil. At the halfway point of the round of 16, just one of them is still in the tournament and will be starting: DaMarcus Beasley. At 32, he is enjoying a second life on the U.S. national team and has emerged as one of the key players in its qualification for the second round, where it plays Belgium on Tuesday.
Four World Cups (2014 Players):
Rafael Marquez, Mexico (16 games)
Samuel Eto'o, Cameroon (8 games)
Iker Casillas, Spain (16 games)
Xavi, Spain (15 games)
DaMarcus Beasley, USA (10 games)
Gianluigi Buffon, Italy (14 games)
Miroslav Klose, Germany (21 games)
In 2002 and 2006, Beasley started two games and came on as a sub in a third game. In 2010, he played all of 11 minutes in one appearance off the bench, and by the next year, his future was in doubt.
After one of the most successful careers any American has ever had in Europe -- he remains the only player to play in the semifinals of the UEFA Champions League -- his European career reached the end of the line at Germany's Hannover 96. But he got a break when he found a starting job at Mexican club Puebla and has kept it for three seasons.
Beasley played all of 136 minutes for the USA in 2011 and 2012 beforeJurgen Klinsmannrecalled him in March 2013 to take over at left back -- a position at which Klinsmann started four different players in the first seven World Cup qualifiers. Beginning with the Snow Bowl against Costa Rica, Beasley started seven of the next eight qualifiers as the USA rolled to first place in the Hexagonal for the third straight time, and he captained the USA to the 2013 Gold Cup championship.
But Beasley has outdone himself, playing the best soccer of his national team career, at least at left back. The play of the outside backs -- Fabian Johnson on the right side and Beasley on the left -- is one of the key reasons the USA survived the Group of Death.
Beasley is the lone member of the U.S. backline who came in the 2014 World Cup with previous tournament experience.
“You can’t really teach that,” said Beasley in his first meeting with reporters since the start of the World Cup. “That’s always been inside me whenever I played. I like big games. For me, I like being under the lights. I like playing in front of 80,000 people. It takes out the nerves for me."
With 119 caps, he has more international experience than anyone on the U.S. World Cup team, and on Tuesday he will join Cobi Jones and Earnie Stewartin second place in all-time World Cup appearances among U.S. players with 11, one behindLandon Donovan.
Beasley says the World Cup is the ultimate test for a player to show he belongs on the big stage.
"Once you get the first touch on the ball," he says, "it’s like you’re playing any other game. You forget about the World Cup, you forget about the fans, you just go out there and play and make sure you’re focused in your position and what you need to do to win the game.”
Already down to four healthy defenders, Belgium now finds itself in a situation where two of its three central midfielders are carrying injuries. Marouane Fellaini has a calf injury like Moussa Dembele and had to leave the Red Devils' practice Sunday at the Paradise Golf & Lake Resort outside Sao Paulo. Coach Marc Wilmots insisted Fellaini's injury was not serious. The big injury concern for the Red Devils remains captain Vincent Kompany, who missed training again on Sunday.
Rain seems to follow the USA each time it heads up to the Northeast of Brazil. The Belgian newspaper Derniere Heure reported that FIFA has already told the USA and Belgium they won't be able to train at Salvador's Arena Fonte Nova on Monday because of concerns about the condition of the field.