World Cup: 'Psychic' animals fail to predict the future as Achilles the cat blunders, octopus suffers chopped sashimi fate

Feline fortune teller Achilles had been on the money with hosts Russia's victories over Saudi Arabia and Egypt, Iran's win against Morocco and Brazil's triumph over Costa Rica. PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK, REUTERS) - In Russia, feline fortune teller Achilles has been faring better than his other animal counterparts, with the cat being feted for his ability to "see" into the future of upcoming World Cup games and becoming a celebrity in the process.

However, according to Russian news agency Sputnik, Achilles, who lives at St Petersburg's Hermitage Museum and serves as the de facto critter oracle for the World Cup, showed that even he could err after plumping for a Swiss victory over Sweden in their last-16 Finals game on Tuesday (July 3).

Sweden ran out 1-0 winners at St Petersburg Stadium courtesy of Emil Forsberg's deflected goal as Achilles made only his second Finals blunder after predicting Nigeria would come out on top in their Group D encounter with Argentina.

The congenitally deaf white cat, had been on the money with host Russia's victories over Saudi Arabia and Egypt, Iran's win against Morocco and Brazil's triumph over Costa Rica.

According to his caretakers, his condition helps him go about making predictions without distractions.

"We're sure he has a special gift because he is deaf. We think if he has nothing, then he (must have) something he has received more (of). And this is his gift," said Maria Haltunen, the press secretary of the historical museum.

Achilles is one of a menagerie of Russia-based animals predicting World Cup games, with rivals including Samara's white goat Zabiyaka, Sochi's otter Harry, Kaliningrad's hippos Milya and Glyasik and Nizhny Novgorod's tapir Cleopatra.

Harry had correctly forecast Russia's two victories and one defeat at the tournament, only for him to make a mistake by predicting Spain would beat Russia in Sunday's World Cup last-16 match in Moscow.

Russia emerged victorious after beating the 2010 world champions 4-3 on penalties after the game ended 1-1, with both sides unable to break the deadlock in extra time.

Elsewhere, a stray cat living at Beijing's Palace Museum died on Monday after becoming an online sensation for making six successful predictions for this year's World Cup.

The cat, named Baidianr, which literally means "white spot", quickly won the hearts of tens of thousands of netizens after it made its first guess for the opening game on June 14.

Before each game, staff members at the museum would put two bowls of cat food in front of Baidianr, each with the national flag of the competing countries, to see which bowl Baidianr would go for. The chosen bowl was the cat's predicted winner.

Baidianr made its first successful guess by picking Russia in the opening game. It was rewarded for its accuracy with baby dried fish.

It then failed a few times, after which the official Sina Weibo account of the Palace Museum posted pictures of Baidianr hiding its face behind its paws in shame.

The pictures soon generated huge attention online. Each Baidianr-related post would attract thousands of comments and reposts, whether the cat's prediction was right or not.

When Baidianr made its sixth consecutive successful guess on June 26 - picking Argentina over Nigeria - more than 8,000 netizens left comments saying they had prepared the best quality cat food and snacks as a reward.

The next day, however, the museum reported that the cat had fallen seriously ill and was sent to hospital. It said on Wednesday afternoon that the cat's hind legs had become suddenly paralysed and it began breathing heavily and meowed in pain.

The museum opened a special Sina Weibo account under the cat's name to update the cat's treatment progress and health condition, drawing more than 21,000 followers.

Sadly, on Monday at around 8am, the account announced that Baidianr had died. "Sorry," it said. Thousands of comments were posted to bid the cat farewell.

Meanwhile, a second cat, named Changtuir (long legs), is filling in. It has correctly chosen the winning bowl two consecutive times.

And unerringly accurate predictions could not save a "clairvoyant" octopus named Rabiot from the dinner table before Japan's World Cup last-16, 3-2 loss to Belgium.

Rabiot, a giant Pacific octopus from Hokkaido, had correctly guessed the outcome of all three of Japan's World Cup group-stage matches - one win, one draw and one defeat - but his soothsaying properties were not enough to prevent him from being chopped up into sashimi, according to local media reports.

Despite gaining national attention for his success in an experiment conducted in a paddling pool, the fisherman who caught him, Kimio Abe, sent him to the market before Japan's Group H decider against Poland.

"I'm glad all the forecasts turned out correct and Japan moved on to the knockout stage," Abe told Japanese daily Mainichi Shimbun before the Samurai Blue's last-gasp defeat by Belgium.

His unforeseen death, however, has provoked a social media outcry, with netizens seeking justice for Rabiot.

Rabiot is not the first oracle octopus to predict World Cup matches, with German invertebrate Paul the octopus correctly predicting six World Cup games in 2010.

Closer to home, The Straits Times' very own hamster Neymar-Mite, redeemed himself after a series of previous errors, with an accurate prediction that England would prevail in their World Cup last-16 encounter with Colombia on Tuesday.

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The Three Lions edged Colombia 4-3 on penalties after the game ended 1-1 in extra time for their first-ever shoot-out Finals win.

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