Brazil's goalkeeper Julio Cesar effects a save during the penalty shootout against Mexico.

Brazil's goalkeeper Julio Cesar effects a save during the penalty shootout against Mexico. Photo: AFP

SAO PAULO, Brazil: For years, it has gone without saying in Brazil that fathers do not let their children grow up to be goalkeepers.

This is the land, remember, of the jogo bonito, the beautiful game. It is for strikers and stylists and supermen. Attackers here are likened to legends like Pele and Zico. But goalkeepers? They are likened to, well, poultry and produce.

That was what made Saturday so special. It was not just that the Brazilian national team beat Chile to advance to the quarter-finals of the World Cup. It was that the hero of it all was a goalkeeper. Or, as the locals might say, a frangueiro.

The schedule.

The schedule.

Julio Cesar, the starting goalkeeper for Brazil, is a frangueiro (chicken man). He is also a peru (turkey) and, on occasion, alface maos (or, roughly, lettuce hands). These are the printable euphemisms that Brazilians have for goalkeepers.

Against Chile, though, Julio Cesar was a star. He saved two of Chile's five penalty kicks in the shootout and saw a third one bounce off the post, allowing Brazil to barely slide past its South American rival. In the mixed zone after the game, Julio Cesar stood alongside the standard spotlight fixtures for Brazil, like the star striker Neymar, and basked in the glow of victory.

"I hope to give more interviews like this," he said. "This is my dream."

When watching professional games, most fans in Brazil have little use for goalkeepers, to the point that some of the saints and martyrs who actually take on the job have likened the feeling of playing goal to living on death row.

The analogy is not far off the mark: After all, for goalkeepers in Brazil, it sometimes feels as if each game is just another day closer to the moment that ends you.

"The fans, they are always waiting, waiting, waiting for the mistake," said Zetti, a former goalkeeper for Brazil's national team.

The history of Brazilian goalkeepers is mixed. Many longtime fans still think of Moacir Barbosa as the most famous keeper in Brazilian history, but not with any sort of affection. Barbosa was roundly blamed for giving up the deciding goal in the final against Uruguay during a disastrous 1950 World Cup defeat, a game that has haunted the country ever since.

Zetti recalled that Barbosa, who died in 2000, said that "after that game, he felt like he had been sent to a prison for the rest of his life".

New York Times