Fabregas quietly confident but prepared for pain

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The Independent Online

The psychology behind the most fascinating of the two World Cup semi- finals includes neither side wanting to be cast as favourites.

While Joachim Löw gave Spain the title yesterday, Cesc Fabregas said Germany, whom they vanquished 1-0 in the Euro 2008 final, were welcome to it. "If they want to be favourites, we will accept that," he said.

"We just want to play the game, we want to be a strong team, we want to beat them, and we want to reach the final. They are a very strong side, probably the strongest side in the tournament at the moment. It will be a very exciting game, two teams who play good football, so let's see who wins."

Fabregas says he is prepared to have a pain-killing injection in his sore shoulder to be available. "It's painful but when you are up for it, it's fine," he was quoted as saying in yesterday's edition of Barcelona-based Sport newspaper.

"I am ready to get an injection in order to play," he added. "If (coach Vicente) Del Bosque needs me I'll be there." Fabregas sustained the injury in Saturday's quarter-final victory against Paraguay after coming on as a substitute shortly after half time to replace Fernando Torres.

He spent most of Sunday evening's training session in the gym as a precautionary measure.

The pre-match skirmishes have seen Spain as the less voluble camp, the product perhaps of this being their first semi-final appearance and one which has brought them down a far rockier road that their opposition.

Vicente del Bosque's big decision is whether to remove Torres from the starting line-up and perhaps start with Fabregas in midfield. Spain's fluidity after Torres had left the field and Fabregas arrived in the quarter-final against Paraguay was significant. Fabregas reflected that he had simply needed games under his belt after returning from the broken leg he sustained in the Champions League against Barcelona in March.

"Of course, when you are not playing, you have to give even more to get yourself into the team," Fabregas said. "I needed games. I needed minutes on the pitch. You can train as much as you like but if you don't play, you will never get your fitness back."

Goalkeeper Pepe Reina predicted Torres, his Liverpool team-mate, would find his mark, having failed to find the net in five matches, while Spain's striker David Villa is the tournament's leading scorer with five. "He (Torres) is a very mature person and he knows perfectly well that this is what happens sometimes in football and he has to stay calm," Reina said. "He has the confidence of the coach, of his team-mates and of himself. Hopefully he'll make history again like at Euro 2008 and be a key player for us."

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