World Cup animal predictions: will piranhas or pandas win?

Jun 12, 2014

Guinea pigs, elephants, pandas and camels all vie for the crown of Paul the Octopus

STR/AFP/Getty Images

Who is going to win the World Cup? In the sad absence of Paul the Octopus, the psychic cephalod who tipped Spain for glory in 2010 but died later that year, various other animals are being touted as the heir to his throne.

Here are some of the runners and riders:

Pele the Piranha:
On the eve of the tournament The Sun has unveiled its World Cup tipster, Pele the Piranha, described by the paper as an "Amazonian toothsayer". Like Paul, Pele makes his predictions at mealtimes. "Pele makes his choice by picking one of three morsels of fish to eat," explains the paper. "Two treats have the colours of the opposing teams while the third is marked 'Draw'." The Sun proudly adds that when presented with three choices for England's opening game against Italy on Saturday, "he showed no hesitation and munched the Cross of St George grub". Makes you proud to be English...

Big Head the Turtle:
Not apparently named after Old Big 'Ead himself, Brian Clough, this 25-year-old loggerhead turtle at the Praia do Forte turtle sanctuary north of Salvador is being tipped for greatness. The Daily Mail reports that Big Head's first World Cup prediction was to back Brazil in their opener against Croatia. Fish were hung from two flags and a football (representing a draw), and Big Head chose the fish hanging from the Brazil flag. Looks like a solid start for the reptilian pundit.

Shaheen the Camel:
There may be little similarity between a camel and an octopus, but deep in the deserts of Dubai, Gulf News claims to have discovered a "four-hooved World Cup prediction machine" called Shaheen. Sitting between two placards, the pachyderm will make his predictions by nodding towards one team or another. He made his debut today and backed Brazil to beat Croatia in the opening match of the tournament. It's hardly the most scintillating spectacle, but if it works...

Baby panda squad:
How many pandas does it take to predict the winner of a football match? Several, apparently. In China a "crack team of baby pandas" has been assembled for the task, reports the English China News Service. But they are taking their responsibilities seriously. During the group stages the cubs will "predict the outcomes of matches by selecting food from three baskets representing a win, lose or draw". Things get more complex in the latter stages when "the animals will select winners by climbing trees marked with the national flags of competing nations or... run a race [while wearing the teams' colours] to predict the winner".

Nelly the Elephant:
Based in Germany at Hanover's Serengeti Park, Nelly is not new to the football prediction game, having tried her hand, with varying degrees of success, in 2010 and at Euro 2012. She makes her predictions by kicking a ball into a net. According to website The Score, the process is "incredibly confusing", but "Nelly apparently has predicted Germany will draw with Portugal and will beat the USA and Ghana during their Group G campaign".

Guinea pig re-enactment:
What better way of future-gazing than by releasing 22 guinea pigs and a ball filled with grass onto a pitch and seeing what happens? That's how staff at Hatton Adventure World Stadium near Warwick came to the conclusion that England would lose their opening match against Italy. After 90 seconds the team with the ball was declared winners, unfortunately it was an Italian guinea pig that was munching away when the whistle went, reports ITV.

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