There is no doubt that 2010 has been exceptional for Julio Cesar with his club side F.C. Internazionale Milano, who have claimed four from a possible five titles so far this calendar year. Yet the Brazil keeper clearly remains scarred by his national team's disappointing quarter-final exit at the hands of the Netherlands at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, and is thus doubly determined to bag another trophy before the year is out in the shape of the FIFA Club World Cup.
Victors over AFC Champions League winners Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma F.C. in the semi-finals here at UAE 2010, Cesar and Co are now set to clash with tournament revelations TP Mazembe Englebert in tomorrow's title decider. Speaking to FIFA.com after training on Thursday, the shotstopper discussed the African champions’ shock last-four win over SC Internacional do Porto Alegre, how he expects TP Mazembe to perform in the final and his determination to put the disappointment of South Africa 2010 behind him.
FIFA.com: Julio, how did it feel to make your comeback from injury in such a big match?
Julio Cesar: It was great. I’d not played for a month and a half because of two injuries and I was missing it. And I’m not just pleased for myself, but also for my colleagues who’d been injured too, like [Diego] Milito. He’d been out for a good while but he played well and scored a nice goal. For all those reasons it was a positive comeback, as well as an important win and a good footballing display. We’re very pleased to have a shot at yet another title in 2010.
The team clicked well out on the pitch, with everyone grafting hard, covering for each other and celebrating the goals as one. Could this tournament help boost Internazionale's collective confidence?
We started the season well by winning the Italian Super Cup, and though we lost the European Super Cup final we started strongly in the Italian championship. The problem was that we were quickly hit by a succession of injuries, so we struggled in the league for a few months and that ended up making the coach’s life difficult. It was hard for him to arrive at a new club and suddenly find that he couldn’t call upon the core of players that had been playing together and winning titles. But I’m totally convinced that victory here at the Club World Cup would really help us get our confidence back. Having more players available means the coach can work better and the team perform better too.
You’ve had an excellent year with Internazionale but defeat with Brazil in the quarter-finals of South Africa 2010 was a huge disappointment. Would winning here at UAE 2010 help make up for that painful early exit?
Since turning pro I put my mind to winning as many titles as possible. This was a good year for me at club level but unfortunately the World Cup ended up being a very sad experience. We’d been performing really well for the three and a half years that Dunga was at the helm, the squad was full of confidence and we were determined to reach the Final at the very least. That’s why going out in the quarters was hugely disappointing. But life goes on and we keep looking forward, towards other challenges. Now, along with Lucio and Maicon, I’ve got the chance to win the Club World Cup and turn the page (on South Africa) once and for all. That’d be a good way to finish 2010, and an even better start to 2011.
And do your goals for 2011 include winning more titles with I Nerazzurri and breaking back into the national team?
Without a shadow of a doubt, my goal is to carry on playing for A Seleção. I still dream of helping my country become world champions and I’ll pursue that for as long as I’m able. I’m 31 now and if I can keep performing consistently well in the years running up to the World Cup in Brazil that’ll be ideal. I’m going to keep working hard, and I know that (Brazil boss) Mano Menezes will be watching. We had a chat during the period he was in Europe when, as well as visiting a few clubs, he spoke to a lot of players, including me, Maicon and Lucio. We know that, from now on, it’s in our own hands. We’re going to keep working hard with our clubs, focusing on being successful and winning the competitions we’re involved in to keep up our hopes of returning.
How are you expecting TP Mazembe to perform in the final? And what have you made of the outstanding displays of their keeper Muteba Kidiaba? Will you passing on any hints to your team-mates about how to beat him?
No, I think that in a game like this we mustn’t single out just one of their players. He put in a great goalkeeping display against Internacional and is having a good tournament, but we’re in relaxed mood and have prepared well. Our coach was at the stadium to watch their match and he’ll give us a good idea about how we ought to approach the game. We know they’re a physically strong team, like most African sides, and that they’ve got some very quick players. Rafa [Benitez] will go over everything with us beforehand; that way we won’t be taken by surprise.
Many people had predicted that it would be Internazionale versus Internacional in the final, but for the first time in the competition’s history the Copa Libertadores champions didn’t make the decider. Did this surprise you too and would you have preferred to take on the Brazilian side?
Unfortunately Inter weren’t able to win their game, and it wasn’t because they didn’t play well. Of course a final between the two Inters would have been a very interesting game for everybody, it’s a shame that it hasn’t happened. And there’d been so much talk about that final because, ever since the format of the Club World Cup was changed to include the champions from every continent, the teams from Europe and South America have started as favourites and lived up to that billing. But this year’s competition proves there are no favourites any longer. I’m not thinking about revenge or avenging the defeat (of a Brazilian team): I’m just focusing on trying to win this title, which would mean a lot to our club.