By Mike Collett
RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Spain's famously lugubrious coach Vicente Del Bosque was delighted Spain were playing Brazil in the Confederations Cup final at the Maracana on Sunday - even if he was not showing it.
The 62-year-old, speaking to the media before Sunday's eagerly anticipated match between next year's World Cup hosts and the reigning world champions, broke into a rare smile and laughed when he said soccer was not just his passion, but also "his secret vice."
Del Bosque's mournful hangdog expression disguises a master tactician and thinker who has led Spain to the European title in 2008, World Cup in 2010 and European title again last year -- as well as an unbeaten run of 29 competitive games.
"I have been privileged to have been a player and football is my passion and it's my vice, if I confess it," Del Bosque said. "I am very much enjoying this moment, I have had marvelous moments as a player in great teams, and right now, I am coaching a team which is in one of its best-ever phases.
"So I am enjoying it, even if I am not showing it that obviously," he laughed.
"I am highly satisfied, and for all of us this is something very beautiful. We are playing Brazil, the kings of football who have lived through marvelous moments in their football history, and to play in Maracana is something very special.
"I am delighted we are playing the final here and perhaps we can come back and play the World Cup final here as well in 2014."
Although he would not name his starting lineup, he said the team would be "similar" to the one that beat Italy 7-6 in a penalty shootout after the teams ended goalless after 120 energy-draining minutes in the heat and humidity of Fortaleza in their semi-final.
He brushed aside a question about the fitness of Cesc Fabregas, Sergio Ramos and Sergio Busquets, merely saying his players were in "good shape".
Earlier on Saturday, Fabregas said he was fine and that his coming off in the second half of the final group match against Nigeria, which kept him out of the semi-final, was just a precautionary move.
"It was just a scare," Fabregas told the AS newspaper.
"I was worried because I have a bad history of injuries in the hamstring area, although the past two years have been very positive.
"I didn't force it against Nigeria and the tests showed nothing more than a bit of tension which was affecting me in the sprints. But I am already feeling better and am fit to play."
The game starts at 1900 local time (2200 GMT/8 PM ET) following the earlier (1600 GMT/4 PM ET) third-place playoff between Italy and Uruguay.
(additional reporting by Iain Rogers in Madrid; Editing by Greg Stutchbury)