BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil—Four years after making the mistake that led to Brazil’s elimination from the World Cup, Julio Cesar came up big.
Cesar made two saves in Saturday’s penalty shootout victory and watched Chile’s last shot from the spot smack the post, helping save Brazil from a humiliating loss in the second round of the World Cup.
The score was level 1-1 after extra time, and Brazil ended up winning 3-2 on penalties to reach the quarter-finals for the sixth consecutive World Cup.
Cesar has always admitted that his mistake on a ball crossed into the area in 2010 led to Brazil’s 2-1 loss to the Netherlands in the quarter-finals in South Africa, something which left him devastated.
This time, there were only tears of joy.
“Four years ago I gave a very sad, angry and emotional interview,” the goalkeeper said, wiping away tears. “And today I’m doing this again, with happiness. Only God and my family know what I went through and still go through today, but I know that my story is not over with the Selecao.”
The Brazil No. 1 played for Toronto FC prior to leaving for the World Cup, arriving on a loan deal with Queens Park Rangers prior to the start of the season.
Toronto fans have likely seen the last of ‘keeper at BMO Field. The deal called for Cesar to stay with the MLS team through December, but Toronto manager Ryan Nelsen has said there was a “gentleman’s agreement” that the English team can have him back sooner. Cesar has confirmed QPR wants him back in August.
Saturday, Cesar was visibly emotional even before the penalty shootout, when teammates walked over to hug him and wish him well. His eyes appeared to be watering and he seemed to have a hard time staying composed.
“My teammates are giving me a lot of strength so I can get on the field and give my best,” Cesar said. “There are only three steps left and I still want to be back here to give another interview, with Brazil partying.”
Cesar stopped the first two shots by Chile in the shootout, staying near the middle of the goal to block Mauricio’s Pinilla’s attempt, then diving to his right to deflect Alexis Sanchez’s strike.
“I just kept my focus, that’s all I had to do,” Cesar said.
On the final penalty, Cesar dived to his left and just watched as Gonzalo Jara’s shot struck the post and rebounded away.
Fans who had been loudly chanting his name exploded into cheers as the ball finally went wide. Players rushed across the field toward Cesar, who stood there waiting with his arms wide open.
“It was hard, it was with heart, with tears and with saves by Julio Cesar,” Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff posted on Twitter. “We won!”
Cesar had already made a crucial save that prevented Chile from taking the lead in the 65th minute. After Charles Aranguiz’s close-range shot, Cesar showed his reflexes to push the ball wide with his left hand.
While it was Neymar who took the penalty that gave Brazil a 3-2 lead in the shootout, he knew where most of the praise should go after the narrow victory.
“Cesar deserves all the credit today,” the star striker said.
With files from The Canadian Press.