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June 30, 2017

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Casillas 'deserves respect,' says Julio Cesar

TERESOPOLIS, Brazil -- Brazil's Julio Cesar on Thursday jumped to the defense of fellow goalkeeper Iker Casillas, after the Spain captain was heavily criticized for his part in the World Cup holders' shock early exit.

A Spain side whose recent successes were built from their solid defense have crumbled at this World Cup, losing to both the Netherlands and Chile and conceding seven goals in the process, some of which were blamed on Casillas.

"I don't like it when people talk about mistakes. It's a bit upsetting," said the 34-year-old Cesar, who has had to deal with plenty of personal criticism during his own career.

"I analyze other goalkeepers and potential opponents in this World Cup and Casillas is a keeper who deserves our respect. He has won many major trophies and has been a great goalkeeper for Real Madrid for many years.

"He has had his moments like all goalkeepers but will always be respected everywhere as a winner. It's not only Casillas, it's the Spain team as a whole. Not even the most pessimistic people would expect their team, full of excellent players who have won so much, to go through what they have."

Most Brazilians might initially have feared the possibility of facing Spain in the knockout rounds, but the premature exit of the World Cup holders on Wednesday has left Chile and the Netherlands to fight it out for first place in Group B next week.

Brazil will therefore face one of them if they clinch progress in their final Group A game against Cameroon in Brasilia on Monday, but Cesar refused to discuss who would be better opponents for the tournament hosts.

"We still have a game to come which will decide whether we go through so to speak about either Holland or Chile now would be to disrespect Cameroon," he said.

Luiz Felipe Scolari's side still need a draw against already-eliminated Cameroon at the National Stadium on Monday to be sure of progressing, and finishing first is also in their hands.

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