Brazil World Cup winner Cafu conceded Neymar's performances in Russia fell short of expectations, but claimed the Paris Saint-Germain forward remains the country's "greatest revelation in the last 10 years".
After recovering from a metatarsal injury just in time to make the trip to Russia, Neymar scored twice in five games as Brazil were knocked out by Belgium in the quarter-finals, though he was roundly criticised in the media for his histrionic reactions to challenges.
Cafu, who is Brazil's most capped player with 142 appearances for the Selecao, admitted that Neymar failed to live up to his billing as one of the potential stars of the tournament, but backed the 26-year-old to overcome the disappointment.
"We all expect a lot from the ace," Cafu told Globo Esporte. "Neymar is an ace and we expect him to do different things on the pitch.
4 - Brazil have now been eliminated by a European nation in each of the last four editions of the World Cup (France 2006, Netherlands 2010, Germany 2014 and Belgium 2018). Exit.#WorldCup #BraBel #Bra #Bel pic.twitter.com/cSAzbQX1q8— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) July 6, 2018
"This is normal. It's obvious that criticism is going to fall on Neymar because of what happened. Were Neymar's performance what we expected? No. They were a little below, because from an ace people always expect something different.
"If he has to change some things or not, that's his decision. He knows what's best for his career, for football.
"We have a great player. He is our greatest revelation in the last 10 years, one of the greatest Brazilian players of recent times. The World Cup is unforgiving.
"We want to see Neymar happy, happy, happy because it is good for him and for Brazilian football. He's a smart boy. He knows what he did at the World Cup, what he can do better and how to move forward."
In his assessment of Brazil's World Cup showing, Cafu was somewhat more critical of Brazil coach Tite and striker Gabriel Jesus.
He described part of Brazil's performance in the 2-1 quarter-final defeat to Belgium as "a mistake" on behalf of the head coach, while lamenting Jesus' failure to find the net.
"Although he only made a mistake for 30 minutes, he made a mistake," Cafu said of Tite. "This is fatal in the World Cup, it can result in elimination and put the work in doubt.
"But if Tite continues, we'll support him. There's a lot of work ahead."
On Jesus, he added: "The striker is known for scoring goals. Tactically, Gabriel Jesus was fantastic for Brazil. That is not disputed.
"But unfortunately he went blank at the World Cup, and when the strike doesn't score goals he is criticised."
19. November 2018
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|I have reached the top by joining Chelsea - Sarri|
|Bonucci tells Italy boo boys to ´live with less envy´|
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|Button enjoying racing for first time in years|
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|Theismann: Smith leg break ´heart-wrenching´ to watch|
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|McGuire signs four-year deal with Cowboys|
|Bears beat Vikings to extend NFC North lead|
|Peng overcomes Davis in Houston final|
|Kerr says this has been his toughest stretch as Warriors coach|
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|Modric not worried about Ballon d´Or|
|Saints pull away for blowout victory over Eagles, extend winning streak to nine|
|Martinez laments loss of control by Belgium|
|Logano claims first NASCAR Cup championship|
|Luis Enrique delighted with attitude of Spain´s squad|
|Stevens tells Celtics to get ´tougher´|
|Griezmann: Being Messi´s lieutenant played a part in rejecting Barcelona|
|Curry proud of how Warriors handled Green-Durant incident|
|Courtois: Belgium thought Nations League job was done|
18. November 2018
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|Robben dismisses Bayern title talk|
|Huge blow for Redskins as QB Smith breaks tibia and fibula|
|Switzerland 5 Belgium 2: Seferovic treble crowns incredible comeback|
|Titans DC Pees taken to hospital during Colts game|
|Spain 1 Bosnia-Herzegovina 0: Debutant Mendez spares Morata´s blushes|
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|Titans QB Mariota suffers elbow injury|
|Djokovic hails much-improved Zverev|
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|Redskins QB Smith carted off after gruesome ankle injury|
|Jaguars shut down Jalen Ramsey trade rumours|
|Classy Zverev revels in victory, hails defeated Djokovic|
|Forget the Nations League was ever invented, jokes Northern Ireland boss O´Neill|
|Magnificent Zverev claims ATP Finals title|
|Mahrez double fires Algeria to 2019 AFCON|
|Mbappe hoping for French winner of Ballon d´Or|
|Northern Ireland 1 Austria 2: Last-gasp winner denies hosts maiden Nations League point|
|Teenager admits assaulting Wales great Thomas|
|Browns deny Condoleezza Rice is candidate for head coaching job|
|Koeman: Netherlands not favourites for Germany clash|
|Dalic ´not sad´ but blames fatigue for Croatia relegation|
|Proud Southgate hails England hero Kane as world´s best goalscorer|
|Last-gasp Exeter penalty try shatters Bristol|
|Mbappe dismisses talk of Cavani-Neymar rift|
|Keita will do ´great things´ for Liverpool – Mane|
|Mourinho needs time to fix Manchester United - Veron|
|Southgate sees progress as England reward loyal support|
|Miller hungry to ´knock out a Brit´ after Dinu demolition|
|Yasir, Hasan put Pakistan in control with five-wicket hauls|
|England´s resilience delights Kane as Three Lions secure Nations League Finals spot|
|Kane proves Nations League importance to England in Wembley decider|
|Muller, Hummels still important for Germany, says Low|
|Tevez in line for start in Copa Libertadores final second leg|
|England 2 Croatia 1: Kane able to secure Nations League Finals spot|