Brazil goalkeeper Julio Cesar insisted Tuesday he will silence any doubters who believe coach Luiz Felipe Scolari should consider looking beyond him as the FIFA World Cup™ hosts target a sixth triumph.
"I come in with my suitability in the position questioned, but happy and 100 per cent ready," the 34-year-old said as he settled into Brazil's tournament headquarters at Granja Comary an hour outside of Rio de Janeiro. The former Inter Milan shot-stopper has been in the limelight with Scolari insisting throughout the build up to the competition that he will definitely be first choice between the sticks.
But Cesar in January had to resort to resurrecting his club career in the unlikely surroundings of Toronto after months spent in the wilderness following relegation from the English Premier League with Queens Park Rangers. A veteran of two previous World Cups, Cesar has Scolari's unwavering public support as well as a winners medal from last year's FIFA Confederations Cup, where he was designated best keeper.
After rumored moves to Arsenal, Napoli, Fiorentina or a move back home to Brazil failed to materialise Cesar stayed at QPR - albeit on the sidelines, before Major League side Toronto FC came calling
I come in (to this year's World Cup) better than in 2010, better focused, better prepared.
"People said I was going to play in a Mickey Mouse league," Cesar said. "But I can say that the US league in the past few years has passed that of Brazil in terms of attendance - for my first game we had 45,000 people in the stadium. The US league is enjoying huge growth. I conceded nine goals (in seven games) so that was very annoying."
Four years ago, he was singled out for criticism as Brazil exited the World Cup in South Africa following a quarter-final loss to the Netherlands, after being caught out for the Dutch opener. Cesar, relishing the build-up to Brazil's curtain-raiser with Croatia in Sao Paulo on 12 June, insisted that he has put that behind him.
"I come in (to this year's World Cup) better than in 2010, better focused, better prepared," he explained, suggesting that had Scolari not returned to the helm some 18 months ago his international career might have been over.
"After all that happened to me at Inter, at Queens Park Rangers, I never stopped plugging away. It was the confidence I felt from the coaching staff which ensured that I am here today. Had another coaching team been in charge of the Seleção I don't know if I'd be here."
Botafogo keeper Jefferson is first reserve but has yet to win a competitive cap, such is Scolari's faith in his first choice.