ITU, Brazil (AP) — The religious cult "Science of Happiness" visited Japan's training camp Saturday to support the World Cup team: "Open The Way With Positive Thinking," read a banner they left by the road.
Maybe the Japanese group is trying to bring on the help from above that the national team needs to get through to the knockout stages of the World Cup.
On the brink of elimination, Japan needs a goal rush against an impressive Colombia lineup and rely on Greece taming the so-called "Les Elephants" of Ivory Coast in Monday's last Group C matches. The Japanese no longer have their fate in their hands following a 2-1 loss against Ivory Coast and a 0-0 draw against Greece.
Coach Alberto Zaccheroni gave the team the day off Saturday to help prepare mentally for the enormous task ahead.
"The reason isn't physical," Zaccheroni told reporters, explaining his unexpected decision to cancel practice. "It's to help the team find the right balance in their approach to the next match."
Qualifying for the knockout stages will be like threading a needle, but Japan may have two factors going for it. Colombia has already qualified and probably won't be firing on all cylinders for the Japan match; the Central Americans may even be tempted to rest players. On the other hand, Greece — at the bottom of Group C — are also still barely in the tournament and so have every reason to come out hard against Ivory Coast.