Early Doors

Paul’s eight hands of destiny

Early Doors

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It's not too often that you get an e-mail that reads: "Octopus Paul will predict both World Cup final matches. We expect his decision tomorrow about noon. We'll let you know asap."

But this was what dropped into Early Boers's inbox from Eurosport's German office yesterday. Such is the power that said cephalopod - or 'Pulpo Paul' as he has been dubbed by the Spanish speaking world - now wields during this World Cup.

It's the sort of thing you'd expect to be taken from the tales of Billy the Fish, but this is really happening. Who would have thought this would be how the intrigue surrounding that redhead Russian spy would be shunted from the top novelty news spot? It's the equivalent of Ultravox's 'Vienna' being kept from reaching number one by Joe Dolce's 'Shaddap You Face'.

As you are no doubt aware, Paul has become an international star after predicting all of Germany's results in South Africa correctly. Although, it is a surprise that he hasn't ended up griddled and smothered in garlic and paprika after picking Spain to beat the Mannschaft in their semi-final on Wednesday.

Nevertheless he has survived, and millions of football fans - via the clutch of international football journalists with nothing better to report unless David Villa breaks a metatarsal in training - will be waiting to see which of the two boxes containing flags of the respective finalists he opens in his tank this lunchtime.

In true reality TV style, Paul will be cranking up the tension by picking the winner of the third-place play-off first. As his boxes are baited with food, he may be too full after picking between Uruguay and Germany for a second piece of soothsaying on the same day.

If this World Cup is anything to go by, then the super-stardom will go to his head, his head will be turned by a line of eight-legged lovelys and he will fail to perform at the most crucial time.

But what's this? We have a new biped hero to follow: Mani the Parakeet, to be precise. Move over, vile teutonic mollusc!

The Singaporean bird has apparently picked the right result for every quarter-final and semi-final in South Africa by flipping over one of two cards when he comes out for his lunch. Nice work if you can get it.

In all likelihood though, the mystique surrounding at least one of these animal augurs will be debunked come the final whistle of Sunday's final, just as the unprecedented amount of portents that have emerged during this tournament have all, one by one, been disproved.

There was a lot made of England wearing all-red ahead of their final group match against Slovenia. They won that match 1-0, but it didn't do them much good against Germany in their next match. Or against Brazil, when they wore it in 1995. Funny how that luck seemed to wear off against top opposition.

Mick Jagger was dubbed the 'Angel of Death' after his attendance in support of USA, England and Brazil led to them all being eliminated while he was in the ground, though he was probably too busy scowling at a vuvuzela-blowing Leonardo di Caprio to cast any black magic on the teams.

Men's outfitter Strenesse had an unexpected run on their line of blue cashmere sweaters after Joachim Loew said he would keep his on against Spain because it brought his Germany side luck. The 200-euro-a-pop jumpers flew off the shelves, but it couldn't stop the Spanish winning 1-0.

Talking of which, the so-called 'Nike curse' doesn't seem to have done Cesc Fabregas, Andres Iniesta and Gerard Pique any harm, does it?

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One other omen that has been dredged up is that the last time an English referee took charge of a World Cup final, in 1974, the Netherlands lost to West Germany.

This fact has become pertinent because FIFA have handed Howard Webb and his team the keys to Soccer City for Sunday's final.

If a mark of a good referee is that he is not noticed during a match, then Webb is in for a stinker. Expect every correct throw-in, goal-kick and drop-ball call during the match to be vehemently praised by the English commentators.

There have already been plenty of predictable slights on Rotherham's finest - "At least Manchester United have a player in the final" etc, but the fact is that he is one of the best officials out there. There were certainly no complaints about his handling of the Champions League final just two months ago.

All referees make occasional mistakes. Even the much-vaunted Pierliugi Colina - so widely regarded that his face adorned the cover of one edition of Pro Evolution Soccer, complete with whistle in mouth and card in hand - ended his fine career by costing Everton a place in the Champions League. 

As long as he limits himself to only dishing out a maximum of two yellows and one red per player on Sunday, he'll exceed expectations.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: "What faces us is beautiful and after that will be the time to think." Spain hero Carles Puyol, who was clearly not looking in a mirror at the time, hints that his international career may be nearing an end. "No decision has been made. I will talk about it with the coach Vicente Del Bosque and the sporting director (Fernando Hierro) after the final."

BOERMY ARMY TWEET OF THE DAY: "RT @EarlyBoers  Carlisle Utd now ground 36 @doingthe92 was inspired and is currently cycling round all 92 English league grounds" @jonathanhaggart highlights the fact that his mate is now a third of the way through his admirable charity bike ride. Wouldn't it have been more rewarding if he did it during the season though?

COMING UP: There's the Armchair Pundit with his own take on last night's action and what lies ahead, plenty of analysis from our select squad of experts and the steady drip feed of all the latest events from the World Cup news ticker.

It's stage six of the Tour de France today. You can keep up-to-date either via our live text commentary and peloton tracker or watch it on the Eurosport Player. Why not get involved by joining the #tourdetweet?

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