Brazil’s Julio Cesar has moved to defend fellow goalkeeping legend Iker Casillas, after the Spain captain bore the brunt of criticism for his side’s shock World Cup exit after just two group games.
5-1 and 2-0 defeats to the Netherlands and Chile respectively leave the reigning European and world champions sensationally booking an early flight home before even their third match, with Casillas' numerous errors a core contributing factor.
It has led to strong calls for the Real Madrid star to be dropped from the side, but the former Inter Milan stalwart believes that Casillas is still one of the top keepers in the game and that his track record commands more respect.
'I think that Iker Casillas deserves all of our respect. He’s a goalkeeper that, over the last editions of the Euros and World Cup, has lifted all the main trophies in the world,’ he stated.
‘What else can I say about him? He’s the captain, well-respected by Spain and Real Madrid, and an excellent goalkeeper who’s been named the best in his position several times.’
Spain’s all-time most capped player with 156 appearances, Casillas has been the side’s uncontested starter since taking over from Santiago Canizares in 2002, captaining the 'Golden Generation' during their unprecedented run of success, which saw them arrive in Brazil looking for a fourth consecutive major international title.
However, the 33-year-old has found himself limited to a backup role in La Liga over the past 18 months following the signing of Diego Lopez, with his only regular outings during the 2013-14 season coming in the Champions League and the Copa del Rey.
Cesar has likened the situation to his own, having been forced to move on loan from Queens Park Rangers to MLS side Toronto FC earlier this year in order to secure first-team football before the World Cup, and has also pointed to Mexico’s Guillermo Ochoa as an example of a once-criticised keeper now finding form.
‘I think that something has happened to him the same way it has happened with me and some other goalkeepers too,’ Cesar said. ‘I had issues with my former coach at QPR. He chose to play with another goalkeeper. I respected his decision, it was his choice.
‘The same happened with Ochoa. Sometimes a coach is not pleased with a player and then chooses others, but Ochoa’s performance proves that if you have a good build-up and if you are focused then not playing does not affect that much.’
While Casillas’ tournament may be drawing to a close, Cesar’s Brazil have ambitions of lifting the trophy at the Maracana on July 13, although their opening two group games against Croatia and Mexico have proved uninspiring, despite picking up four points.
The 34-year-old has looked somewhat shaky at times but, if he was to pull off some heroics during the host nation’s run to an historic sixth World Cup title, then it would prove a fantastic retribution story for a player who was confined to a bench role in England’s second tier just six months earlier.