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."
|Pjanic hails Ronaldo arrival but refuses to confirm Juve future|
|Perotti: Roma can cope without Liverpool-bound Alisson|
|Klopp hopes Liverpool building towards title tilt|
|Karlovic exits as four seeds bow out in Newport|
|Angels clap back at Manfred´s marketing comments on Trout|
|Titans DL Casey will still protest despite new anthem policy|
|Popovich on Leonard trade: It´s time to move on|
|Zola returns to Chelsea as Sarri´s assistant|
|Anthony Joshua targets ´dream´ fight in Texas|
|Celtic 3 Alashkert 0 (6-0 agg): Dembele hits brace before injury worry|
|Schwartzman stumbles but Spanish duo reach last eight at Swedish Open|
|Top seeds progress in Bucharest as Larsson conquers Kung|
|Perez promises ´incredible´ signings at Real Madrid|
|Liverpool need a top goalkeeper - Souness|
|It was just an absolute car crash - Root regrets bat-drop celebration|
|Mourinho´s pre-season fears mount with Sanchez sidelined|
|Alisson thanks Roma fans ahead of rumoured Liverpool switch|
|Pogba must understand his World Cup heroics, says Mourinho|
|Odriozola excited by Lopetegui reunion at Real Madrid|
|Revis announces retirement from NFL after 11 seasons|
|The Open 2018 diary: Rahm´s saving Grace, Rory´s going grey|
|Kawhi Leonard traded to Raptors as DeMar DeRozan heads to Spurs|
|Cantona, Rosberg and other surprise retirements after Warburton hangs up his boots|
|No doubting Thomas as he climbs into yellow with stage win|
|Liverpool´s Oxlade-Chamberlain to miss ´vast majority´ of 2018-19|
|Open Championship by far the greatest - Player|
|Sarri wants new central midfielder and hints at Chelsea stay for Cahill|
|Nantes sign former Manchester United full-back Fabio|
|Marcelino rewarded with one-year Valencia extension|
|Warburton retires: Bale leads social media tributes to Welsh great|
|Mistakes do not define me, says Chelsea boss Sarri|
|Saints and Tigers to honour Horne with Twickenham clash|
|I want to keep Hazard, says Sarri|
|Europe must stop American juggernaut at Carnoustie|
|Joshua planning for heavyweight ´legacy´ – starting with Povetkin|
|Warburton retires: Wales and Lions star´s career in numbers|
|Matching ´ridiculous´ Tiger not on McIlroy´s radar|
|Spain sent me World Cup SOS, claims Benitez|
|Ozil, Gundogan critics should ´shut up´ - Klopp|
|McIlroy plans to play carefree at Carnoustie|
|Pakistan thrash Zimbabwe to secure series win|
|Warburton retires: Gatland salutes Wales and Lions great|
|Sturridge determined to stay at Liverpool|
|Mbappe is an alien – Varane|
|Warburton retires from rugby|
|India to assess Bhuvneshwar as Bumrah makes Test squad|
|Injured Craddock passes $100,000 in donations at Tour de France|
|WATCH: Perez taunts team-mate after audacious training goal|
|Alison Becker tweets ´I´m joining Liverpool´... but all is not as it seems|
|F1 Raceweek: Hamilton chasing down Schumacher - German GP in numbers|
|Notorious Carnoustie holds fond memories for legendary Watson|
|Rooney refused to be ´dead weight´ at Everton|
|The Open 2018: Molinari, Rahm and the in-form contenders at Carnoustie|
|Marsh interested in Australia leadership roles|
|United can challenge City for Premier League title, says Rooney|
|MLB All-Star 2018: Seven things you missed at Midsummer Classic|
|American League win home run-filled MLB All-Star game|
|Dragons lure Sims from Broncos|
|Cassano: Ronaldo like Nadal, Messi like Federer|
|Lakers´ Ball undergoes successful knee surgery|
|´We kill them, Messi or no Messi´ - Pogba´s pre-Argentina World Cup speech revealed|
|Cardinals suspend GM Keim for five weeks after DUI|
|Dalic: I can coach Brazil or Barca but Croatia my favourite|
|Warriors coach Kerr extends contract|
|I´m ready to bust him up - Miller calls out Joshua after New York confrontation|
|CAF Champions League Review: ES Tunis and TP Mazembe set the pace|
|Mixed day for seeds in Newport as Muller progresses|
|Rams sign Cooks to five-year extension|
|Cowboys’ Randy Gregory reinstated by NFL|
|Verdasco survives Swedish Open scare as Paire is picked off in Umag|