Predictions are part and parcel of football. “It’s a game of opinions,” goes the cry. And the loudest of them all at this World Cup belongs to a German octopus called Paul.
For those of you not with the program — and where have you been?!? — the good folk of Germany have been paying close (way too close) attention to its “psychic” octopus. Paul, from the Sea Life Aquarium in the city of Oberhausen, has correctly called every World Cup game involving the national team thus far. How does he do it? Easy. His handlers encourage a prediction by putting mussels into two glass cubes, with each cube bearing one of the nation’s flags, and the mussel that Paul picks first is his choice.
The two-year-old cephalopod (and there’s a word you didn’t expect to read on a football blog) has become a national celebrity, somehow getting every decision right, including Germany’s surprise 1-0 defeat to Serbia. But before you exclaim that it’s the same as getting a coin toss right five times in a row — though have you tried it? Not as simple as you think and you’re hearing this from someone who last did basic math probability quite some time ago — the nation is currently in a (semi) state of shock. The reason? Paul has plumped for Spain in Wednesday’s semi-final. As unbelievable as this sounds, German news channel n-tv aired a live broadcast of the earth-shattering moment earlier today (and decided that it needed two commentators to cover it.) From what I hear, Paul started off by going to the Spain-marked container but then moved around the tank, hovering over the German box. But as a country rose as one, to acclaim Paul (and buy their tickets for the final), he let his people down by suddenly switching his mind yet again (are you sure you’re not a Pauline? I kid. I kid) and went for the Spanish.
This, of course, demands some post-match analysis. It transpires that Paul has only ever got one prediction wrong and that was when he decreed that Germany would defeat Spain in the final of EURO 2008. Fans are hoping that the opposite will take place so that history repeats itself (kind of) and actually Germany will triumph with Paul getting one more shot at glory.
And not everyone is enamored by him: the Argentinians threatened to kill Paul and put him in a paella after he went against Diego Maradona’s men (see below). The newspaper El Dia offered this recipe for anyone daring enough to capture the intrepid octopus: “All you need is four normal potatoes, olive oil for taste and a little pepper.”
The 2010 World Cup then. The 2006 finalists can’t make it out of the group stage. Uruguay lasts longer than Brazil and Argentina. And the most reliable indicator of a match, making a mockery of every pundit and writer worth his salt, is an octopus called Paul. Please adjust your records accordingly.