Julio Cesar ready for Confeds conquest
After being one of the main fall guys for a disappointing 2010 World Cup, goalkeeper Julio Cesar is back in Brazil's good books for playing a major part in the Selecao's march to the Confederations Cup final.
The oldest player in a squad comparatively lacking experience as coach Luiz Felipe Scolari builds a team to lift the World Cup next year on home soil, the 33-year-old came to this event hot after suffering the indignity of relegation from the English Premier league with Queen's Park Rangers.
That fate was not quite the way the veteran shot-stopper from Duque de Caxias had expected to prepare for his end-of-season World Cup dress rehearsal,
But he has risen to hero status after his penalty save in Wednesday's semi-final win over Uruguay provided the springboard for a gutsy, if slightly fortuitous, victory at the Mineirao stadium in Belo Horizonte.
His stop from Diego Forlan's spotkick drew praise even in the immediate aftermath of what was a crushing blow for Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez, who swallowed his frustration to note that Cesar "has again shown what a great keeper he is".
Julio Cesar's career has had its ups and downs ever since he made his debut for Flamengo 16 seasons ago.
An under-17 world champion in 1997 who made his full debut for Brazil in 2004, winning the Copa America - with a penalty shootout save against Argentina.
And though he generally played second fiddle to Dida, he swiftly came to the attention of Inter Milan, who initially farmed him out to Chievo on loan.
But he was back within months to oust Francesco Toldo as first choice at San Siro and after helping his country win the 2009 Confederations Cup, his club career hit the ultimate high with Inter's victory in the Champions League in 2010.
Yet weeks later he was deemed to be at fault for a Wesley Sneijder goal in a World Cup quarter-final loss to Holland and after Mano Menezes replaced Dunga at the helm he lost his place.
His exile ended earlier this year after Scolari replaced Menezes and he has re-established himself as number one between the posts.
Of his save against Uruguay, Julio Cesar, closing in steadily on the 100 caps mark, said he had simply done his homework and that he knew Forlan would fire his penalty to his left.
"I played with him at Inter Milan - but it was a good stop," he told reporters.
Julio Cesar has managed to throw off his recent travails both with QPR and with Brazil and is now one match away from a third international crown.
But he will hope his real crowning glory will come in 12 months' time as Brazil target what they really want more than anything: A sixth World Cup.
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