The Brazilian goalkeeper was in tears before his penalty shootout heroics saved the host nation from World Cup disaster at Estadio Mineirao. But after pulling out two outstanding saves to clinch a shootout win over Chile in the round of 16 there were only smiles.
"I never hid from anyone that I am an emotional person and I have never left that aside," said Cesar, who plays in Major League Soccer for Toronto FC. "I was crying because many teammates came to me supporting me, telling me nice things – beautiful things – and I couldn't hold it."
But though he might be an A-lister now, Cesar has spent the last two years on the other end of the soccer spectrum.
Compared to the rest of a Brazil squad full of players who ply their trade with the biggest and best teams in the world, Cesar plays for a team (Toronto) that finished 17th out of 19 in a league ranked anywhere from seventh- to 10th-best in the world.
He moved there because he had slipped to third on the depth chart at Queens Park Rangers, which last season was in the second-tier English Championship. The illustrious names ahead of him were Robert Green, whose embarrassing blooper allowed the United States to tie England at the 2010 World Cup, and unknown youngster Brian Murphy.
"I am very happy with my career," Cesar said. "I have had different feelings in my career. What will crown it will be too kiss and hold the cup together with millions of Brazilians. In my heart there is room for all the moments."
It seemed all stacked against Cesar heading into the most electrifying few minutes of this World Cup so far.
Up against him was a keeper far higher on the current popularity list; Chile's Claudio Bravo, who only this week signed a multi-million dollar contract to join Barcelona.
Then there is Brazil's general distrust of goalies, which dates back, unbelievably, to the 1950 World Cup, when unfortunate keeper Barbosa was blamed for the team losing the chance to win the tournament in the only previous time it hosted.
This time, it was a goalkeeper – an unheralded one at that – who saved it.
"It was a very important moment," Cesar added. "It was decisive for our future in the World Cup."
Brazil knows it got lucky. Its opening goal after 19 minutes appeared to come off Chilean defender Gonzalo Jara, the man whose final penalty eventually gave Brazil victory when it crashed against the post. David Luiz claimed the early goal, though a delighted crowd didn't care much either way.
But Sanchez equalized for Chile and Brazil's South American rival held firm, defending for its life in the second half and extra time. With only one minute remaining of the 120, Pinilla smashed a fierce effort that rattled the crossbar. Inches lower and Brazil would have fallen into collective gloom.
Instead it anointed a precious favorite son.
Many will wonder how is it that a country that produces such fine soccer players couldn't find a better (or should we say more high-profile) goalie for its World Cup campaign.
For a start, he isn't a bad keeper, he just found himself in a tough spot after a long career at Inter Milan and went to MLS because it meant guaranteed playing time.
[Gallery: Brazil vs. Chle ]
On the other hand, despite his achievements on Saturday, no one is pretending Cesar is one of the best in the world in his position. Brazil doesn't produce many great keepers, for a pretty simple reason. No one wants to be a goalkeeper in Brazil.
Partly it is the Barbosa bias, partly because the rhythmic passion of this nation celebrates those with flair and footwork and those who produce feats of magical trickery to set up goals, not the killjoy who tries to prevent them.
Maybe that will change now.
More on the World Cup on Yahoo! Sports: