All the way to the trophy! Paul the oracle octopus is right yet again after picking Spain as the World Cup winner
He faced his greatest challenge yet ahead of last night’s World Cup final.
But Paul the ‘oracle octopus’ proved once and for all that he doesn’t crack under pressure by correctly predicting Spain to win the tournament.
Spain beat the Netherlands 1-0 in the second half of extra time in an ill-tempered match in the Soccer City stadium outside Johannesburg.
The mystic mollusc correctly selected Germany to win the third place play-off against Uruguay, and his national team duly obliged after winning 3-2 in Port Elizabeth.
But Paul the World Cup-predicting octopus is to retire.
He correctly predicted the outcome of as many World Cup matches as he has legs – all seven of Germany’s games plus the Spain-Netherlands final.
But a spokeswoman at Germany’s Oberhausen Sea Life aquarium said he will ‘go into retirement and do what he likes to do best: play with his handlers and delight children who come visit to him’.
The knowledgable octopus was yesterday issued with a challenge from an unexpected quarter – Mani, Singapore’s psychic parakeet.
Mani – who had, according to his owner, predicted the previous five games of the tournament correctly – had thrown the gauntlet down to Paul by – incorrectly – predicting that Holland would triumph on Sunday instead.
Germans were torn in two at the news. Half would still have wanted to roast Paul with garlic after he predicted – correctly – that their team would lose to Spain at the semi-final.
While the other half hoped that Paul – who is, after all, a German octopus – would triumph against Mani, giving them some share in the glory of the World Cup final.
Paul was born in Weymouth in 2006 but now resides in Germany’s Oberhausen’s Sea Life Aquarium.
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He predicted matches by choosing to eat a mussel from boxes emblazoned with the flags of the German team and its rivals.
In the group stages, he correctly predicted German victories over Australia and Ghana and the country’s loss to Serbia.
England and Argentina then produced spineless performances in the next two rounds to ensure that Paul’s predictions that Germany would win came to pass. Then came Germany’s defeat to Spain.
SECRETS OF THE SOOTHSAYER: HOW DID PAUL DO IT?
So how does Paul do it? According to experts, it could all be down to the shape of the competitors’ flags.
‘Experiments have shown that the Octopus vulgaris can distinguish brightness, size, shape, and horizontal or vertical orientation of objects.
‘They are more drawn to horizontal shapes,’ said Shelagh Malham, a lecturer in the School of Ocean Sciences at Bangor University.
But can they see colour? Not according to Janet Voight, associate curator of invertebrates at The Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago.
‘No, there’s no evidence that octopus have colour vision. The colour red disappears ten feet under water anyway.’
So Paul can’t see in colour but is drawn to bold horizontal shapes.
These are just the shapes that appear on the flags of Germany, Spain and Serbia.
But how did he pick between these flags? The German flag is quite bold but the Spanish flag has a broader yellow horizontal stripe, explaining Paul’s attraction to Spain. Similarly, the Serbian flag is brighter and more vivid than the German flag.
Although octopuses cannot see specific colours, they can determine differences in hue and brightness. These are probably the factors that led to Paul choosing the teams he did.
Paul became an international sensation – with media around the world yesterday publishing his prediction that Spain would win the final.
Then, along came Mani.
Yesterday the 13-year-old parakeet made his own World Cup prediction – grabbing a card in his beak bearing the flag of the Netherlands.
Mani has become a local celebrity after its owner, M Muniyappan, claimed Mani accurately forecast the World Cup’s four quarter-final games and Spain’s semi-final victory over Germany.
‘He’s a special bird,’ Muniyappan said.
Muniyappan, an 80-year-old fortune-teller, said Mani has helped him predict the future for five years at a table in front of a restaurant in the Little India neighbourhood.
But this year’s World Cup is the first time the parakeet has attempted to forecast the outcome of sports competitions.
‘People usually want help picking the lottery numbers, or when to get married,’ said Muniyappan, who was born in India and moved to Singapore in 1953.
‘Then gamblers started asking about the World Cup.’
Muniyappan said about 30 people a day now pay for his psychic powers, up from about 10 a day before Mani shot to fame.
Paul first started predicting matches during the 2008 European Championships, when four out of his six choices were correct.
Mathematicians have found the probability of guessing the correct result six times consecutively is less than 0.5 per cent, or 216 to 1.
Paul’s soothsaying has turned him into a star in Germany. But he may well prove to be the victim of his own success.
After Argentina lost to Germany in the quarter-final, the Argentines threatened to capture, kill him and serve him with potatoes.
Even some Germans have turned against their eight-legged oracle, suggesting Oberhausen restaurants should soon offer grilled octopus on their menus.
At the age of four Paul is unusually old for an octopus, which, in the wild, don’t usually live much past two years.
This story may not have legs for much longer. . .
See video of Paul picking Spain
See video of Mani picking Holland
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