Júlio César: This man keeps everyone from Brazil happy, even when no one knows who he is

For the rest of the world, June is the last chance to watch football this year. So here’s a website dedicated to the world’s top player and it could save the world.

The website FIFA.com asks fans to put their faith in the Brazilian Brazillian man known as the Hand of God. He was the hero in the 2002 World Cup final — a 2002 he later described as a “dream come true.” It was also the last time fans around the world thought of Júlio César as a hero.

Two years earlier the goalkeeper sent a World Cup final to penalties by fielding a cross from the Brazilian midfielder Roberto Carlos and sending it crossbar side — subsequently known as “Arco de fútbol” or “Hand of God.” By kicking the ball as if it were a simple wavy patch, both his back, shoulders and arms were exposed.

Júlio César was a surprise inclusion in Brazil’s roster for this World Cup. Even when he was a kid he had trouble becoming the best keeper in the country’s history. His teammates, then teenagers like Neymar, Oscar and Ronaldinho, took over from him — and left him out of World Cup squads over the years.

He hasn’t started a game since June 9, 2010, when Brazil beat the Netherlands in the final. It was the last time he made the post-match podium.

Now, Júlio César is back, and three days before the next game at home against Croatia he helped save his country’s World Cup with a series of tremendous saves. He was the reason Brazil tied Spain 2-2 and secured a place in the quarter-finals, extending his moment of redemption even further.

His first save on the night came in the 14th minute, just seconds after a Spanish free kick was awarded, when he denied a Spanish striker with an athletic punch. He followed that up with another brilliant save, this time from a fired free kick.

On the 84th minute, he forced a routine save from David Silva with a low, tope header. But he showed the strength of his will by getting his left leg in the way of a free kick that came sailing past him.

Then it was the turn of Neymar and his subtle and calculated snub of César. He chipped the ball straight to Casemiro, who twisted it into the penalty area. Neymar was heading for the ball and then he saw César half a foot away — his fate had already been sealed.

For those who feel deeply about soccer and even those who don’t, they’re saddened that César and other aging keepers from the tournament’s last 18 years are stuck like glue in the squad. Why weren’t they members of a second-half roll call? Yet it is hard to recall a poorer selection for a World Cup squad than the current one, which is an embarrassment to Brazil and the fans who rely on them to walk the world’s stairs up off their knees.

So, let us go to the giant heart of Júlio César and give thanks for what he is. There is no better place to admire the work of a man who made his mark by turning himself into a miracle.

Read more World Cup news here.

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