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."
|Mitchell returns to England as defence coach|
|Brady completes Cornet upset in Guangzhou|
|Lopetegui giving no guarantees to ´fighter´ Navas|
|Di Francesco denies racially abusing Costa|
|Saunders apologises for ´sickening´ online video|
|Tianjin Quanjian 0 Kashima Antlers 3 (0-5 agg): Semi-final spot booked in resounding fashion|
|Madrid cannot live on Ronaldo´s glories, warns Ramos|
|Real Madrid are Champions League favourites, insists Man City coach Arteta|
|Stokes & Hales charged with bringing game into disrepute|
|Stephens slips to Vekic defeat in Tokyo|
|Simeone should teach Griezmann values - Ramos questions Ballon d´Or ambition|
|Arteta ready to step into Guardiola´s shoes after missing out on Arsenal job|
|Naive or scheming - Ozil´s agent slams Kroos, Neuer and Muller|
|Bolton´s Darby forced to retire after Motor Neurone Disease diagnosis|
|Root vows dressing support for Moeen over Ashes abuse claims|
|Madrid more dangerous without Ronaldo - Dani Alves|
|Federer fires ominous Djokovic warning to rivals|
|Arsenal confirm Gazidis departure to Milan|
|Man´s best friend? D´Arcy Short ruled out by dog bite|
|Salah has strong bond with ´friend´ Klopp|
|Mistakes were made in Serena´s US Open row - Federer|
|Burgess wants ´truth to come out´ over lewd video allegations|
|Injury brings premature end to Sharapova´s season|
|The next one´s mine - Griezmann underlines Champions League desire|
|A novice coach and a solar-powered stadium – who are Champions League debutants Young Boys?|
|Free-scoring Liverpool and PSG do battle, Kane eyes elite club - Champions League in Opta numbers|
|Braves fall to Cardinals, still move closer to clinching NL East|
|Mack leads Bears past Seahawks|
|Maradona makes winning start in Mexico|
|Barcelona captaincy has changed Messi, says Bartomeu|
|Lithuania qualify for FIBA World Cup after double-overtime win|
|Yelich makes history with another cycle|
|Silva: PSG, Liverpool have world´s two best attacks|
|It´s like a cow seeing a train – Pochettino uses unusual analogy to talk experience|
|Brady discusses Patriots´ trade for Gordon|
|Bills coach McDermott hasn´t spoken to Davis, says he ´didn´t feel a need´|
|Coutinho can´t explain Barcelona´s Champions League struggles|
|Henderson: Run to final can inspire Liverpool in Champions League|
|Eriksen: Everyone expects Kane to score a hat-trick every game|
|Gruden doesn´t regret decision to trade Mack|
|West Ham confirm Wilshere ankle surgery|
|Hughton hails Murray´s cool head as Brighton fight back again|
|It´s not good enough - Hojbjerg blasts Southampton|
|Patriots sign Josh Gordon from Browns|
|Southampton 2 Brighton and Hove Albion 2: Murray denies Saints after Hojbjerg howitzer|
|Wawrinka ready for Khachanov after battling past Bedene|
|Lozano: Joining Barcelona would be a dream|
|Players can fight for Messi´s shirt if they win, says Van Bommel|
|Kaymer tips Europe for Ryder Cup glory|
|Neymar to face Liverpool, confirms PSG´s Tuchel|
|Jardim backs Ronaldo to beat Griezmann in Ballon d´Or battle|
|Atletico will grow through hard work, says Simeone|
|Sorry Sri Lanka crash out of Asia Cup|
|Pochettino has no concerns over ´easy target´ Kane|
|Valverde expects PSV to attack|
|Salah ´sure´ Liverpool can win Champions League|
|Firmino misses training ahead of PSG clash|
|Joe Calzaghe´s father and trainer Enzo passes away|
|Coutinho: I have to improve a lot to earn Iniesta comparisons|
|Pochettino explains Trippier & Alderweireld absences for Inter clash|
|The quickest to 50 Premier League goals as Silva reaches milestone|
|Lampard: Derby can´t afford to sign Terry|
|Carson Wentz injury update: Eagles QB cleared to play Week 3 vs Colts|
|Verratti ban a blow for PSG - Henderson|
|Spalletti wants to have fun in ´Disneyland of football´|
|Alli, Lloris and Sissoko miss Inter-Tottenham in Champions League|
|West Ham´s Perez refutes suggestion he refused to warm up against Everton|
|Canelo-GGG drama lives up to the greats and demands third act|
|Hamilton genius triumphs over Ferrari desperation in Singapore|
|Klopp: ´Smart´ Neymar does not act|