How Julio Cesar defied blunders, tears and career dead ends to make Brazil 2014

The Rio Report

View photo


Brazilian goalkeeper Julio Cesar

If Brazil have had to walk a long road since the 2010 World Cup, some bear the scars of having made the journey bare footed.

Under the stewardship of Dunga, the Seleção flattered to deceive in South Africa, their cautious, reactive game plan failing to pay off as hoped. In particular, the quarter-final defeat by the Netherlands in Port Elizabeth played out as farce: a first-half Robinho strike had seemingly put Brazil in command, but an own goal and a Wesley Sneijder header after the interval sent the Oranje through to the last four.

Two men were singled out by the inquest into the defeat.

One of them, Felipe Melo, has not pulled on the yellow jersey since nodding into his own net and then being sent off for a crude stamp on Arjen Robben. He has, perhaps harshly, become a symbol of the kind of aggressive physicality coaches since have attempted to move away from in an attempt to get the Brazilian public back onside.

The other man was Júlio César. At the time, the Internazionale man could legitimately claim to be the best goalkeeper in the world, but his flap for the Netherlands’ first goal opened him up to widespread criticism in his homeland.

His cause was probably not helped by a post-match interview in which he was unable to hold back the tears, his answers interrupted by heavy breathing. For the neutral, it was almost endearing; for his detractors, it was proof of the kind of emotional instability that had cost Brazil their place in the tournament.

Júlio César was dropped from the Brazil squad after the World Cup as Mano Menezes culled some of the of the side’s elder statesmen. He soon earnt a reprieve, but after appearing in the disastrous 2011 Copa América campaign his days as an international footballer appeared numbered.

A move to Queens Park Rangers appeared a step backwards, but his early displays in the Premier League caught the eye of Luiz Felipe Scolari, who installed him as number one in the friendly against England.

Scolari has not wavered since. Even when Júlio César was being kept out of the QPR team in the Championship, Felipão continued to sing his praises.

Now at Toronto FC, the goalkeeper recognises 2010 as a key moment in his development as a footballer. “I became a better professional after that,” he told the press at Brazil’s training camp last week. “Sometimes self-confidence can hinder you. I feel more focused now and I am 100 per cent ready for this World Cup.”

He also revealed that it wasn’t just Scolari who backed him through the tough times: the current Brazil captain also played a role in dragging him back from the precipice. “Thiago Silva sent me a message reminding me that I had promised to play in 2014,” said the 34-year-old. “He told me that I would overcome that difficult moment.

“Thiago remembered. Those who were there will remember how moved I was. Many feel the coaches are taking a risk [by playing me], but I will reward their confidence.”

After four years – and, you suspect, a few sleepless nights – Júlio César finally appears ready to put his 2010 World Cup nightmare to bed this summer. Here’s hoping this year’s edition ends on a happier note.

Jack Lang

View comments (2)