On 12 September 1990, Cafu made the first of his record 142 appearances for Brazil in a 3-0 loss to Spain.
Twenty years old at the time, he had started his professional career with São Paulo the previous year as a midfielder, but did not make an appearance until 1990 after switching to right back. The move earned him a call-up from new national team manager Paulo Roberto Falcão for a friendly against Spain.
They met at the Estádio el Molinón in Gíjón, where Spain rolled to a confortable 3-0 victory, their first over Brazil since 1934. For his part, Cafu earned a yellow card and second-half substitution.
He continued to make limited appearances for Brazil through the early '90s, including an appearance in the 1994 World Cup Final, which Brazil won, then became a regular starter in the latter half of the decade, winning two Copa Américas and another World Cup in 2002. He got his last cap in 2006 and retired in 2008.