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Cesar goes from villain to hero

BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil – Four years after making the mistake that led to Brazil's elimination from the World Cup, Julio Cesar came up big.

Cesar made two saves in Saturday's penalty shootout victory and watched Chile's last shot from the spot smack the post, helping save Brazil from a humiliating loss in the second round of the World Cup.

Four years after making the mistake that led to Brazil's elimination from the World Cup, Julio Cesar came up big. REUTERS/Sergio Perez. Credit: REUTERS

Brazil ended up winning 3-2 on penalties to reach the World Cup quarterfinals for the sixth straight time.

Cesar has always admitted that his mistake on a ball crossed into the area four years ago led to the team's 2-1 loss to the Netherlands in the quarterfinals in South Africa, something he said devastated him

This time, there were only tears of joy.

“Four years ago I gave a very sad, angry and emotional interview,” the goalkeeper said, wiping away tears. “And today I'm doing this again, with happiness. Only God and my family know what I went through and still go through today, but I know that my story is not over with the Selecao.”

Cesar was visibly emotional even before the penalty shootout, when teammates came to hug him and wish him well. His eyes appeared to be watering and he seemed to have a hard time staying composed.

“My teammates are giving me a lot of strength so I can get on the field and give my best,” Cesar said. “There are only three steps left and I still want to be back here to give another interview, with Brazil partying.”

Cesar stopped the first two shots by Chile in the shootout, staying near the middle of the goal to block Mauricio's Pinilla's attempt, then diving to his right to deflect Alexis Sanchez's strike.

On the final penalty, Cesar dived to his left and just watched as Gonzalo Jara's shot struck the post and went back across the goal mouth.

Fans who had been loudly chanting his name exploded into cheers as the ball finally went wide. Players rushed across the field toward Cesar, who was there waiting with his arms wide open.

“It was hard, it was with heart, with tears and with saves by Julio Cesar,” Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff said on Twitter. “We won!” – Sapa-AP

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