By Alan Baldwin
CURITIBA, Brazil, June 21 (Reuters) - Paul the Octopus, you are sadly missed.
The goals have been rattling in all week at a sensational World Cup in Brazil but the animal kingdom seems to be still finding its feet, fins and feathers when it comes to the prediction game.
Paul's unerringly accurate picks from his tank at the Sea Life Centre in Oberhausen, Germany, put him in a league of his own during the 2010 finals in South Africa and earned him worldwide fame as a soccer psychic.
His death, of natural causes only months after he correctly predicted Spain would beat the Netherlands in the final, was much mourned.
There have been many pretenders since, mostly copycat candidates proposed by those seeking to boost visitor footfall or readership, but none with the accuracy or animal magic of the choosy cephalopod.
There are, it seems, no longer any easy predictions in international football.
Paul's old Singapore-based rival Mani the parakeet has gone quiet while Bern-based guinea pig Madame Shiva was on the money with Switzerland to beat Ecuador but lost all credibility by tipping the Swiss to beat France before the 5-2 rout.
Germans have come up with a turtle in Schleswig-Holstein, Penguin Ronald in Brandenburg, armadillos Taka and Flitz in Erfurt and Chemnitz, Nelly the elephant and an otter called Ferret in Sachsen.
After gobbling up England's three warm-up games for Britain's Sun newspaper, Pele the piranha over-stretched himself by forecasting now-eliminated England would rip through Italy in their opener in Manaus.
Big Head, a 'psychic' turtle from the Brazilian beach village of Praia do Forte, was more accurate in predicting that Brazil would overcome Croatia last Thursday but it is still early days.
To help identify his choice of nation, workers at the Brazilian Sanctuary pin flags of the competing teams above hanging fish.
Whichever fish the turtle eats represents his choice of team to win, while there is also a World Cup Brazuca ball over a third fish which gives him the option of predicting a draw.
It is a crowded marketplace but that has not stopped World Cup host city Curitiba from getting in on the action with their own 'psychic' capybara.
"Other predicting animals, they only tell you the results, Capybaras are different," City Hall spokesman Alvaro Borba confidently told Reuters Television.
Different enough to ignore the balls, carrots and goals in predicting the outcome of Brazil's Monday match against Cameroon.
"That means the ball is going to be stuck in the midfield. Nothing is going to happen at that game. It is going to be a game, a really boring game," declared Borba with a hint of desperation.
"Capybara prediction is a science, you can trust it." (Additional reporting by Iain Axon, Karolos Grohmann, Patrick Johnston, Brian Homewood and Andrew Cawthorne, editing by Nick Mulvenney)
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