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Upstart Takes on the World (Cup): Day 30

All creatures great and small are coming out of the ark to inform us all who will win between Spain and the Netherlands, writes Evan Harding, but what does it all really mean?

In the greatest episode of The Simpsons not to feature Sideshow Bob, ‘Homer at the Bat’, Homer’s Wonderbat prompts the rest of the plant’s softball team to find their own wonderbats – even Carl whose ‘enchanted jockstrap’ clearly wasn’t enough.

Similarly, the fame of Paul the Octopus (aka the oracle octopus, the psychic cephalopod, the tentacled telepath, the clairvoyant calamari or the divine devilfish) has prompted the animal kingdom to tempt fate and declare themselves to possess similar foresight.

Here’s the problem: they haven’t all chosen the same team. And so there are going to be some red-faced creatures come Monday morning. (Paul will be somewhat red-faced no matter what, one suspects.)

Among the successors to the crown:

Mani the parakeet– from Singapore, correctly predicted the four quarter-final winners and has chosen the Netherlands to win the final. According to one of his customers, Mani has been ‘spot on with some of his predictions’, much like the cologne ‘Sex Panther‘ which ‘60% of the time it works every time’.

George the giraffe and his lemur and camel friends – from the Netherlands, these three animals have chosen… the Netherlands. As any hardened punter knows, you must bet with your head and not your heart. Let’s move on.

Shama the white-ramped bird – from India and has chosen Spain to win. Indian soothsayers have been using birds for years, but although Shama has no track record with football, he’s clearly decided the best way to build his reputation is to follow Paul by choosing Spain. He is the white-ramped version of that person who waits until the smartest person answers the quiz question before nodding knowingly and saying, ‘Yes, it’s definitely Namibia.’

Simphiwe the octopus (another one) – from South Africa, Simphiwe was ‘diplomatic’ and refused to pick a winner, which is another way of saying Simphiwe shrugged his shoulders and made the confused grunting noise that Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor used to make. Though hardly clairvoyant, at least he’s honest.

So we have animals that habitate earth, air and water. This can only lead to a fortune-telling firefly.

Nonetheless, and this may be a controversial opinion, but with predictions split on this quick straw poll (Noah is conducting a re-count), could it be that maybe these animals can’t predict football results at all?

But yet news organisations the world over seem to have decided that all it takes to get on TV these days is one phone call informing the world of a prophetic platypus or a visionary vole.

Is this Bizarro World? Or merely the by-product of an industry that has (d)evolved to the point that an NBA player who has never actually won a title can demand an hour of the leading sports network’s prime-time to essentially say one sentence, and get it?

If this is news, we’re better off watching Simpsons re-runs.

MUST-SEE: GameSpot has simulated the World Cup final on what appears to be FIFA 10 for the Wii. Unlike the animal world’s predictions, this is at least somewhat based upon reality and wouldn’t give American Samoa a 50-50 chance against Germany. And it’s a thriller.

EYEBROW-RAISER: The Netherlands have never met Spain in a major competition, which in itself is eyebrow-raising. But as The Independent’s Felipe Fernandez-Armesto points out, there is nonetheless still a trace of historical animosity on the part of the Dutch. Due to the Eighty Years War, the Netherlands’ national anthem is ‘a modified version of a Dutch propaganda piece of the 16th century’.

TONIGHT: It’s the playoff for third place between Germany and Uruguay. The Germans have been struck down with the flu, most notably captain Phillipp Lahm, star winger Lukas Podolski and coach Joachim Luuurrrrv. Miroslav Klose is one short of Ronaldo’s record of 15 career World Cup goals, but is also struggling with a back injury and may have caught the bug off his teammates. On top of that, his troops may struggle for motivation, given they are almost always in the semi-finals. Uruguay, on the other hand, welcome back Luis Suárez, the best goalscoring ’keeper since José Luis Chilavert and have the motivation of knowing this could be their best performance in a World Cup since winning the tournament back in 1950. Their two other semi-final defeats saw them finish fourth, including 1970 when they lost 1-0 to West Germany. What does this all mean? Nothing – because Paul has picked Germany: Uruguay 1-3 Germany.

Evan Harding is co-producer of The Contenders Daily Bite, a daily World Cup short which can be seen on Tribal Football. A Master of Global Communication student at La Trobe University, he is an upstart editor armed with a month’s supply of coffee and a Spanish chance to still make back the money lost on an ill-conceived bet. Previous World Cup columns can be found here.

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