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."
|De Bruyne not worried about Liverpool title challenge|
|Sixers star Simmons makes history with triple-double|
|WATCH: Nowitzki receives standing ovation in first home game of season|
|Seattle´s playoff spot on hold after Seahawks suffer OT loss to 49ers|
|Cheika survives as Wallabies coach, Johnson appointed|
|Vikings remain in NFC playoff picture|
|Steelers stay ahead as Patriots lose AFC´s second seed|
|Lionel Messi is the best, says Amor|
|I´m still tired just looking at Robertson – Mourinho in awe of Liverpool intensity|
|Casillas takes swipe at Mourinho after United lose to Liverpool|
|Valverde relieved as Messi brilliance prevents another Levante nightmare|
|WATCH: Leno proposes to girlfriend after Bears clinch division title|
|Messi and Suarez the world´s best strike partnership, says Pique|
|Klopp: I cannot keep every Liverpool player happy|
|Messi and Suarez outscoring Real Madrid and Atletico in LaLiga|
|Levante 0 Barcelona 5: Marvellous Messi banishes ghosts of last season|
|Colts rout Cowboys to keep playoff hopes alive|
|Bears shake off Packers to win NFC North and return to playoffs|
|Mourinho explains Pogba omission and defends Lukaku´s Liverpool showing|
|Liverpool´s display against Manchester United one of the best, claims Klopp|
|Look away Jose! Damning stats expose Manchester United´s limp Liverpool loss|
|Time´s up, Mourinho: Manchester United can dither no longer|
|Manchester United´s players are not dishonest – Mourinho|
|Manchester United´s lack of ambition under Mourinho is scary – Keane|
|Mourinho: All Manchester United can achieve is fourth|
|Quagliarella should be protected by UNESCO, jokes Sampdoria coach|
|Manchester United surpass last season´s goals-against tally in first 17 games|
|Hasenhuttl revels in ´unbelievable´ victory over Arsenal|
|Liverpool 3 Manchester United 1: Shaqiri´s late show bails out Alisson as Reds return to the top|
|Edinburgh in control in Champions Cup, Racing win again|
|Emery ponders January signing after Bellerin injury|
|It is only a knock – Sarri plays down Hazard injury fears|
|Redskins QB Alex Smith released from hospital|
|Starc: If I listen to Warne, I may as well retire|
|Curry interviews retired NASA astronaut, apologises for moon comments|
|Hazard refusing to give up on Premier League title hopes|
|Ziyech & Blind score hat-tricks as Ajax claim 8-0 win|
|Canelo v Fielding: What next for three-weight champion Alvarez?|
|Southampton 3 Arsenal 2: Austin and Ings end Gunners´ long unbeaten run|
|Brighton and Hove Albion 1 Chelsea 2: Sensational Hazard proves the difference|
|Pogba on the bench as Clyne starts for Liverpool|
|Lipsky ends long barren spell in Malelane|
|Lakers´ Stephenson to repeat air guitar despite technical|
|Fletcher pushed Miller on to Broncos sack record|
|The Sarri effect: Hazard surpasses 2017-18 goal involvements in just 16 games|
|Van der Burgh retires on a high note with breaststroke double|
|Rashford: Liverpool was never an option|
|No team Liverpool play this season will be as motivated as Man United – Klopp|
|India surprised by contentious Kohli decision - Bumrah|
|The Sunday Seven - 7 Key Opta facts for NFL Week 15|
|Miller eyeing Joshua bout at Madison Square Garden|
|Finch cleared of serious damage after another finger blow|
|Rashford ´untouchable´ because he plays on his limits – Mourinho|
|It´s important to have his mentality - Mayfield thrilled with Kobe Bryant visit as Browns beat Bronc|
|Centurion Latham indebted to ´world-class´ Williamson|
|Spurs´ Dier out until January after appendix removal|
|A-League Review: Glory down Jets to stay unbeaten|
|Philander ruled out of first Test|
|Controversial Kohli dismissal puts Australia in command|
|Thunder´s Westbrook: ´When we defend like that — best team in the league´|
|Kante at his best further forward, reiterates Sarri|
|Rose capitulates in Indonesia to squander chance to top rankings|
|Fielding: The better man won but I lived a dream|
|Rallying Bulls stun Spurs, LeBron and Ball post triple-doubles|
|Latham century puts New Zealand in commanding position|
|Mayfield leads Browns past Broncos|
|Canelo-GGG trilogy? We can make it happen – Alvarez|
|Canelo outclasses Fielding by third-round TKO|
|Farmer retains title prior to Canelo-Fielding bout|
|Qatar unveils Lusail Stadium for 2022 World Cup|