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Octopus oracle picks Spain to win World Cup

9:13 AM, Jul 9, 2010   |    comments
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Paul's prescient picks in the World Cup - he has yet to predict a match wrong - have propelled him to international fame from obscurity a month ago in an aquarium in the western city of Oberhausen.

TV stations in Germany, Great Britain, Taiwan and elsewhere broadcast live pictures, complete with breathless commentary, of his final decision for the tournament. Millions watched as the world-famous octopus descended upon on a tank marked with a Spanish flag, sitting for only a few minutes before grabbing a mussel and devouring it, while completely ignoring the Dutch tank - indicating a Spanish victory in Sunday's final match in Sunday's final.

It was the first time he'd been tasked to pick a game in which Germany wasn't involved, as the Oberhausen Sea Life aquarium bowed to overwhelming demand to see who he would choose in the final.

Paul correctly predicted Germany's wins over Argentina, England, Australia and Ghana and the country's loss to Spain and Serbia.

He also predicted earlier on Friday that Germany will win over Uruguay in Saturday's match for third and fourth place.

His handlers say he is coping with fame well.

"Paul is such a professional oracle - he doesn't even care that hundreds of journalists are watching and commenting on every move he makes," said Stefan Porwoll, the Sea Life aquarium manager. "We're so proud of him."

Paul first developed his abilities during the 2008 European Championship in which he predicted five out of six games involving Germany correctly. But while he had only a community of local fans two years ago, his World Cup prognostications have brought him international stardom.

Speain's defeat of Germany in the semifinals as predicted by Paul prompted many Germans to wonder about how he would taste grilled for dinner. Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero fretted about the safety of "El Pulpo Paul," as he's known in Spain, and offered Paul protection.

"I am concerned about the octopus," Zapatero said. "I'm thinking about sending in a team to protect the octopus because obviously it was very spectacular that he should get Spain's victory right from there."

In response to hundreds of angry e-mails from disappointed German football fans who sent in recipe suggestions for the 2 1/2 year-old floppy mollusk, the aquarium actually did take extra precautions, Porwoll said.

"I even told our guards and people at the entrance to keep a close look at possible for football fans coming after Paul for revenge," Porwoll said. He added, however, that the number of love declarations the aquarium is receiving from Paul's fans far outweighed the hate mail.

"We've been getting tons of requests from around the globe about Paul's visionary capabilities," said Porwoll. "People want to ask Paul about their marriage prospects, the gender of their future baby or the outcome of upcoming elections."

One reporter from Greece asked if Paul could predict the end of the financial crisis and German TV stations have offered the eight-legged psychic lucrative contracts for his post-World Cup life, he said.

Paul has even made waves in the business world.

Gary Jenkins, an economist with London's Evolution Securities, hedged his market analysis note on Friday, conceding "unless Paul says differently."

He added that "we did try and hire Paul the Octopus but we understand he is Goldman's bound," referring to the bank Goldman Sachs.

While Paul is no doubt the world's most famous animal oracle these days, he is facing competition. In Singapore, Mani, a World Cup-forecasting parakeet, predicted a different outcome of Sunday's final match.

Creeping out of his small wooden cage and choosing between two white cards - one hiding a Dutch flag, the other Spanish - the bird predicted the Netherlands will win its first World Cup championship, setting up a Mani-Paul showdown for Sunday.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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