On Monday morning the Netherlands will play Spain in the final of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. As expected there is much anticipation surrounding this game as both nations have never been crowned champions despite both having a wonderful history in the game. But often World Cups produce “sideshows” to the biggest event in world sport, and this time around it’s no different.

Every football fan, and perhaps many non football fans, would be now aware of the celebrity achieved by Paul the Octopus.

Paul is a common octopus who was born in England and now resides at Sea Life Oberhausen in the German town of the same name. His fame has been acquired because he has been touted as somewhat of an oracle, a clairvoyant calamari, who has predicted correctly 11 of the last 12 games played by Germany which includes all their World Cup matches and in Euro 2008 before that.


But this morning Crikey received an anonymous tip about Paul. How is it, asked our tipster, that a humble cephalopod can somehow predict, terrifyingly accurately, the outcome of games played on another continent?

Let’s have a look at who Germany has beaten (Paul predicted all of these correctly):

  • Poland (June  8 2008) (red and white)
  • Austria (June  16 2008) (red and white)
  • Portugal (June  19 2008) (red and green)
  • Turkey (June  25 2008) (red and white)
  • Australia (June 18 2010) (mostly navy blue)
  • Ghana (June 23 2010) (red, green, yellow)
  • England (June 27 2010) (red and white)
  • Argentina (July 3 2010) (blue and white)

And now look at who Germany has lost to (Paul predicted all of these correctly except for the Euro 2008 final between Spain and Germany where he incorrectly picked Germany. Your bad, Paul):

  • Croatia (June 12 2008) (red, white and blue horizontal stripes)
  • Spain (June 29 2008) (red and yellow) — this was Paul’s only blunder
  • Serbia (June 18 2010) (red, white and blue horizontal stripes)
  • Spain (July 7 2010) (red and yellow)

It appears, pointed out our Deep Throat, that Paul has a disposition towards certain colours.

Red, white and blue together are Paul’s favourite (hence Serbia and Croatia), red and yellow are his second favourites (it’s why he struggles with Germany and Spain) and he least likes red and white together (Austria, Poland, England etc).


According to Assistant Curator Alison Edmunds, the giant pacific octopuses at the Melbourne Aquarium are “very tactile, they can change to a lot of colours. They like reds, blacks, greys and whites.”

Edmunds said that the Melbourne Aquarium’s octopi like playing with toys and are particularly attracted to shiny objects and are “very curious animals.”

But that doesn’t scientifically explain (Common Octopus) Paul’s selections, and research on the subject appears limited. Crikey contacted many leading Australian aquariums, several marine science faculties of major universities and a few zoos in an effort to talk to an octopus expert. Our leads directed us to Research Scientist Mark Norman of the Melbourne Museum, but he was unable to get back to us before deadline.

However, according to How Stuff Works.com , Octopi have “acute vision and can detect colors. Like the human eye, the octopus eye consists of a lens, two fluid-filled chambers, and a light-sensitive retina.” And according to a 1997 New Scientist article, tests were conducted in which an octopus “in a research laboratory in Naples learnt to choose a red ball instead of a white one by watching another octopus.”

So based on our extensive research into Octopi and their penchant for colour, what will Paul choose in Monday morning’s game between Spain and the Netherlands?

Going on the psychic sea creature’s past choices Paul should predict a Dutch victory as he will most likely appreciate that country’s flag (red, white and blue horizontal stripes) over Spain’s.



So, if Paul is to be believed, then then come Monday the Netherlands will have won their first ever World Cup.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey