World of Sport

Is the new Paul about to be discovered?

World of Sport

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Paul the Octopus, pictured correctly predicting the 2010 World Cup final

he World Cup in South Africa two years ago taught us all three key lessons.

First, Spanish-style tiki-taka football is great when done by Barcelona with Lionel Messi waiting to deliver the coup de grace, but excruciatingly dull to watch when Spain do it.

Second, a dastardly intentional handball is one of the greatest sights in sport, so long as it's an act of extreme self-sacrifice to put your team into the semi-finals, as Uruguay's Luis Suarez did.

And third, octopuses know an awful lot about football. Forget about Xavi or Mesut Oezil, the true star of the tournament that time round was Paul the Psychic Octopus, an English mollusc who became famous at an aquarium in Oberhausen  when he correctly predicted eight consecutive matches.

Paul's success laid the foundations for plenty of similar antics, the most famous of which was probably Heidi the cross-eyed opossum, who picked out every winner of the major Oscars in 2011 apart from the Best Film award, in which The King's Speech beat her choice 127 Hours.

Then there was Magdalena the two-headed tortoise, who made several good calls at last year's world ice hockey championships by skating around a toy ice rink populated by miniature plastic players; and a few months later a sheep in New Zealand called Sonny Wool correctly predicted the winner of all the All Blacks matches at last year's Rugby World Cup.

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Magdalena the two-headed tortoise predicting ice hockey matches

Using the animals to divine the future is nothing new, of course. The Romans used to examine bird entrails for that purpose, while the legendary groundhog Punxsutawney Phil has been predicting the end of winter for over 120 years (yep, he wasn't just invented for the film Groundhog Day). Then there was Lady Wonder the psychic horse, who attracted an astonishing 150,000 people to come and ask her advice in the 1920s at a cost of $1 a go.

But given Paul's success in football it's probably no surprise that Euro 2012 has been the prompt for a number of animal sages to step forward for Euro 2012 to fill his tentacles.

But with the first round of matches over, how are they doing so far?

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Nicholas the psychic llama

Nicholas the psychic llama

Who is he: The star attraction at Ashdown Forest Llama Park in East Sussex is currently Nicholas, who has a decent track record going into the tournament having correctly picked Chelsea to beat Liverpool in the FA Cup final, then followed up by predicting Chelsea to beat Bayern Munich in the Champions League final.

Prediction method: Knocks balls off sticks to decide match winners.

Key predictions so far: England to beat France and Sweden but lose to Ukraine in the group stages, then going on to win the tournament.

Chance of being the 'new Paul': A poor start for the llama, who maybe should have stuck to the Copa America given his background. But given that he was apparently denied the option to go for a draw, there may yet be more to come.

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Funtik the psychic pig

Funtik the psychic pig

Who is he: The hog soothsayer, who for some reason also goes by the name of Khyrak, lives in the fan zone in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev.

Prediction method: Rummages in bucket with snout.

Key predictions so far: Successfully predicted wins for Russia, Germany and Denmark (the latter of which against the Netherlands was the biggest shock so far) but has otherwise been patchy after wrongly saying that Poland would win the opening match of the tournament against Greece and that Spain would beat Italy. Then it all went horribly wrong when France failed to beat England and Sweden lost to Ukraine.

Chance of being the 'new Paul': A double whammy of wrong predictions on Monday means that the pig will likely end up as bacon long before the final.

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Fred the psychic ferret

Fred the psychic ferret

Who is he: The local-born ferret is the star of the fan zone in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv.

Prediction method:  Decides between two bowls of food, one containing hard boiled eggs and the other muesli, with a draw the choice if he refuses to eat.

Key predictions so far: Got off to a flyer by picking a draw for Greece, and though he got Russia-Czech Republic wrong (he thought it'd be a draw) he then stormed in with correct predictions that Germany would beat Portugal and Denmark beat the Netherlands. Fred then backed Ukraine to beat Sweden and England to beat France on Monday.

Chance of being the 'new Paul': England let him down badly on Monday night, all the more so considering Ukraine's unexpected and dramatic win over Sweden.

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Rocky the psychic raccoon

Rocky the psychic raccoon

Where is he from: A resident of Bristol Zoo Gardens.

Prediction method: Deciding between two bowls of food.

Key predictions so far: England to beat France in their opening match.

Chance of being the 'new Paul': Sticking to predictions about one team worked well for Paul in 2010, but a disastrous blunder in his very first attempt on Monday means Rocky should hit the road.

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Yvonne the psychic cow

Yvonne the psychic cow

Where is she from: Became famous in Germany after escaping the farm where she lived just before she was due to be slaughtered, and evaded capture for several months.

Prediction method: Deciding between troughs.

Key predictions so far: Portugal to beat Germany on Saturday.

Chance of being the 'new Paul': A disastrous start for Yvonne, who will only be predicting Germany's matches.

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Citta the psychic elephant

Citta the psychic elephant

Who is she: The 33-year-old lives at Krakow Zoo and has a taste for melons.

Prediction method: Selecting between three different melons, which refer to two teams or the possibility of a draw.

Key predictions so far: Picked Chelsea to win the Champions League final in a pre-tournament warm-up, but wrongly thought Poland would beat Greece in the opener.

Chance of being the 'new Paul': Andy Gray and Richard Keys will be delighted: the two girls in the running are both having a torrid time of it.

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