Casillas 'deserves respect'
Iker Casillas (AFP)
Terespolis - Brazil's Julio Cesar on Thursday jumped to the defence of fellow goalkeeper Iker Casillas, after the Spain captain was heavily criticised for his part in the Soccer World Cup holders' shock early exit.
A Spain side whose recent successes were built from their solid defence have crumbled at this World Cup, losing to both the Netherlands and Chile and conceding seven goals in the process, some of which were blamed on Casillas.
"I don't like it when people talk about mistakes. It's a bit upsetting," said the 34-year-old Cesar, who has had to deal with plenty of personal criticism during his own career.
"I analyse other goalkeepers and potential opponents in this World Cup and Casillas is a keeper who deserves our respect. He has won many major trophies and has been a great goalkeeper for Real Madrid for many years.
"He has had his moments like all goalkeepers but will always be respected everywhere as a winner. It's not only Casillas, it's the Spain team as a whole. Not even the most pessimistic people would expect their team, full of excellent players who have won so much, to go through what they have."
Most Brazilians might initially have feared the possibility of facing Spain in the knockout rounds, but the premature exit of the World Cup holders on Wednesday has left Chile and the Netherlands to fight it out for first place in Group B next week.
Brazil will therefore face one of them if they clinch progress in their final Group A game against Cameroon in Brasilia on Monday, but Cesar refused to discuss who would be better opponents for the tournament hosts.
"We still have a game to come which will decide whether we go through so to speak about either Holland or Chile now would be to disrespect Cameroon," he said.
Luiz Felipe Scolari's side still need a draw against already-eliminated Cameroon at the National Stadium on Monday to be sure of progressing, and finishing first is also in their hands.
"That is our objective. We knew it wasn't going to be an easy group but it was great to be faced with difficulties right from the start of the World Cup.
"We are not in a comfortable position, but we are in a good position to go through in first place, which would give us greater confidence," said the Toronto FC shot-stopper, who remembered being on the bench when Brazil lost 1-0 to a Samuel Eto'o inspired Cameroon at the Confederations Cup back in 2003.The current Cameroon side were beaten 4-0 by Croatia on Wednesday and may struggle to put up the kind of resistance the Brazilians faced in their goalless draw against Mexico in Fortaleza a day earlier.
On that occasion, Julio Cesar watched his opposite number Guillermo Ochoa frustrate the Selecao on several occasions, but he agreed with Scolari's assessment that the team have improved since their opening 3-1 defeat of Croatia a week ago and since their triumph in the Confederations Cup last year.
"I agree with Felipao. I think the team is evolving too. We didn't play qualifiers for this World Cup so we didn't have much time to play together.
"In the Confederations Cup teams came out to attack, and that made our job a bit easier. I think Mexico prepared well for the game. They pressed us and closely marked our principal players, but collectively we played well."
He added: "In the Confederations Cup a lot of teams did not respect Brazil in the way they respect us today. Now teams respect us a lot and they defend in numbers.
"Before it wasn't like that. We were able to score early goals that made our life easier. It forced the opposition to come out and our tactics worked marvellously."