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Soccer-Valiant performance vindicates vilified keeper

Reuters

By Andrew Downie

SAO PAULO, June 28 (Reuters) - Brazil goalkeeper Julio Cesar celebrated Saturday night after his dream performance helped erase the nightmare of the 2010 World Cup when his mistake helped lead to Brazil's early elimination and four years of vilification by sceptical fans.

Julio Cesar provided a safe pair of hands throughout the 1-1 draw with Chile before he stopped two penalties in the 3-2 shootout win.

The match was one of the most thrilling of the World Cup so far and the Brazil goalkeeper picked up the Man of the Match award for his display.

"The match has proven that if you have dream then go after it and don't give up," he said after accepting his prize. "We haven't won anything yet but this gives me the strength to go into the next match and help my teammates."

It was welcome vindication for a man who shared the blame for Brazil's early exit in South Africa four years ago. With the quarter final against the Netherlands tied 1-1 he flapped at a cross, allowing Wesley Sneijder to nod home the winning goal.

The keeper famously cried after the defeat and then lost his international place - and his confidence.

He went from Inter Milan to Queens Park Rangers and was relegated with the London club. He sat on the sidelines for much of last season and only started playing again when he was loaned to modest North American outfit Toronto FC.

Scolari, however, never doubted his class. The manager brought him back into the international fold in 2013 and rated him highly enough to guarantee his spot on in the World Cup squad almost a year before the tournament started.

"After what happened in 2010 I saw how many people were cheering for me and I wanted to win the World Cup for what happened back then," Julio Cesar said.

"To be labelled as a villain, that is very bad, it is very complicated."

"I need to keep focused so this dream will come true."

True to form the emotional keeper cried in front of cameras as he described his feelings after the win.

"My tears? Well, I am an emotional person," he said, adding that this time they were tears of joy. "I was crying because individually, my team mates came to me and supported me and said nice things and I couldn't hold it back."

After 2010 "I just tried to focus and concentrate on doing my job in the best possible way," he added. "What would crown this would be to hold and kiss the cup with millions of Brazilians. This is very special because of what happened in the last World Cup." (Reporting by Andrew Downie, Editing by Nigel Hunt)

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