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PARK STRIFE; Cesar: QPR snubbed me so I had to train secretly on a local rec.. now I'm ready to win World Cup for Brazil.

Byline: FROM JOHN CROSS Football Correspondent

ROUND OF 16: Brazil v Chile, 5pm

JULIO CESAR has gone from park player to World Cup hero.

Cesar found himself out in the cold at Queens Park Rangers last season, so, just a few months ago, he bought his own gloves and secretly went down to his local park to get a game.

The Brazil goalkeeper eventually signed for former team-mate Ryan Nelsen's MLS club FC Toronto on loan at the end of last season, but feared his World Cup dream had gone.

Cesar (below, this week) has now completed a remarkable comeback to be Brazil's No.1 and will have the hopes of a nation in his hands when they face Chile in the last 16 today.

The veteran, set for his 84th cap, said: "It was a complicated moment because I wasn't playing for p y g my club because of contractual problems.

"I'd have to go to the park by myself. I even bought some goalkeeper gloves because I didn't want my team to know about it.

"Then, Toronto was something that happened out of nowhere. Overnight. After talking with a friend who had made that leap, I said, 'Why not?'

"I have to thank Ryan so much for this opportunity. He said, 'Come here and you will be ready to play in the World Cup'.

"If I hadn't been playing, it would've been hard to play in the World Cup.

"I am improving with every game, improving my rhythm and enjoying every moment."

Cesar was not a universally popular choice as Brazil's No.1 because of his lack of games, but Luiz Felipe Scolari backed him because of his experience and leadership qualities.

It is an incredible show of faith for Cesar, who endured a nightmare two years at QPR - and has already been told there is no way back for him there.

So, he could win the World Cup for Brazil, yet still find himself on football's scrapheap. Cesar, who has two years left on his contract at QPR, is hoping to find another club this summer, with Benfica interested.

Cesar, 34, joined QPR on a free transfer from Inter Milan in 2012, was relegated and then his PS80,000-a-week contract priced him out of several moves, including interest from Arsenal.

The following season, QPR boss Harry Redknapp chose former England keeper Rob Green and the only outing Cesar had was a four-goal thrashing at Everton in the FA Cup.

Cesar admits there was self-doubt, but is determined to find World Cup redemption.

"I really primed myself for this World Cup, regardless of the fact some critics did not agree with my choice of going to play in a league that is in theory not strong," said Cesar.

"I can look in the mirror and say I believe in myself. I made an important save against Mexico to help us get a draw and, physically and mentally, I am prepared."

Cesar will need that mental strength today as Chile will be a huge test.

He added: "The dream of Brazil is to win the title but we've only achieved our first objective, which is to qualify from the group.

"Now, we have Chile, which will be a final for us and hopefully after that we have another final, another final and another."

Brazil v Chile


All-time head to head: Brazil 48 wins, Chile 7 wins, Draws 13

Managers: Brazil: Luiz Felipe Scolari Chile: Jorge Sampaoli

Referee: Howard Webb (England)

Weather forecast: 19C, Showers, Humidy 61%, Wind 7mph

TV: BBC1 4.30pm-7.10pm

Probable teams

Brazil: Cesar, Alves, Silva, Luiz,Marcelo, Fernandinho, Oscar, Gustavo, Hulk, Fred, Neymar

Chile: Bravo, Isla, Medel,Jara, Mena, Aranguiz, Diaz, Silva, Vidal, Sanchez, Vargas

Mineirao stadium, Belo Horizonte


FALLEN HERO Cesar might not have a future back in England but he hopes to return a World Cup winner
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Geographic Code:3BRAZ
Date:Jun 28, 2014
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