Familiar faces for Julio Cesar
For Julio Cesar, Brazil's final group match against Italy holds special significance. First and foremost, of course, his country have the opportunity to qualify for the semi-finals of the FIFA Confederations Cup South Africa 2009. Then there is the fact that the Seleção goalkeeper has now spent several years in Italy, where he represents Inter Milan.
But that is not all: Brazil-Italy is Julio Cesar's all-time favourite international fixture, and although he may be reluctant to admit it, his rivalry with Gianluigi Buffon could be seen as a showdown between two of the world's finest goalkeepers.
"Aside from being two fantastic teams, the Brazilians who play in Italy don’t want to lose as we’d get terrible stick from our team-mates when we get back," he told FIFA.com. And apart from that, it’s a meeting between two of the best teams in the world, one which we want to win.”
There is no doubt that it is a classic encounter, which down the years has decided the winners of two FIFA World Cups as well as many other key matches, but only one of these sticks out in Julio Cesar’s mind. “I wasn’t born at the time, but it’s definitely the Final of Mexico 1970, which we won 4-1. In Brazil, they’ve shown that game, in fact that whole FIFA World Cup, so many times that I feel as though I was there. It was a spectacular tournament and my all-time favourite Brazilian team.”
So how can Brazil reproduce that magical performance from the Azteca Stadium almost 40 years ago, or at least the result? Having watched Italy, Julio Cesar believes he knows how to beat them. “I saw Egypt against Italy and I think the reason why Egypt caused Italy so many problems was that they ran a huge amount," he said.
"Their keeper also had an amazing game, and kept out the many chances that Italy created. I think we’ll have to cover as least as much ground as Italy if we want to win tomorrow. When we have possession there’s no problem, we know what to do, but when they have it, we’ll have to be very careful that they don’t shake off our markers.
Full focus on victory
In the last few years, there has been a recurring pattern with Brazil: whenever they are favourites for a tournament, they fail to win it, but when written off, they end up being crowned champions. So how highly-rated are A Seleção for this tournament? “Whenever Brazil play, there’s only one aim: to win," he said.
"Whether we’re favourites or not is of no real concern to us. We always want to win because we have a tremendous team with great players, that’s the important thing, so it really doesn’t matter to us what people are saying before tournaments. I’m going out to win. It’s not a World Cup, but it’s still a very important tournament."
Julio Cesar and Buffon are regarded by many pundits as the two best goalkeepers in the world, but for the former, such comparisons are irrelevant. “I’m not looking to win any plaudits, I’m playing well and I’m delighted with what’s being said about me," he said. "But all I’m really concentrating on is maintaining the consistency I’ve achieved over the past three years, as that’s the only thing I can control.”
Another incentive to win their final Group B match could be to avoid a powerful Spanish side in the semi-finals. In our final question, Julio Cesar was his usual confident self when asked about a potential tie against La Roja. “They have a very strong team, with very technical players who can win matches," he said. "But if we want to lift the trophy we’ll have to beat everyone, so I don’t care whether we play them in the semi-finals or the final – either way, we’ll win.”