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Octopus Paul predicts Spain to win World Cup

BERLIN (Reuters) -- Germany's oracle octopus Paul picked Spain to beat the Netherlands in the World Cup final on Sunday in a live television broadcast watched across Europe.

The two-year-old celebrity octopus, who has accurately picked the outcome of all six of Germany's World Cup matches so far, quickly tipped Spain to beat the Netherlands. It took him only three minutes to make up his mind.

"That was fast -- it looks like a clear-cut victory for Spain," said Tanja Munzig, spokeswoman for Sea Life in Oberhausen. She was surprised by his speed in picking Spain. For some matches it took Paul 70 minutes to decide.

The octopus, considered by some to be the most intelligent of all invertebrates, got the choice of picking food from two different transparent containers lowered into his tank -- one with a Dutch flag on it and one with Spain's flag.

Reaction in Spain was swift, with the country's biggest selling sports daily website Marca.com running the headline: "The octopus Paul makes us champions".

The container Paul opens first is regarded as his pick. On Friday he wasted no time in diving for the container on the right side with the Spanish flag on it.

Two German television networks interrupted their programming for live coverage of the two-year-old celebrity octopus's picks. Networks in Spain, the Netherlands and elsewhere in Europe also broadcast Paul's decision live.

Earlier on Friday, Germans heaved a sigh of relief when Paul tipped Germany to beat Uruguay in the World Cup match for third place. There were cheers in offices across Germany after crowds of viewers tuned in to watch Paul live.

Normally he only picks Germany matches. But for the final Sea Life made an exception.

The octopus in Oberhausen turned into a global celebrity for correctly picking the winners of all six of Germany's World Cup matches -- including their two defeats to Serbia and Spain.

On Friday Paul first settled on top of the Germany container but after a few minutes shifted to the Uruguay container. Then after about 15 minutes he went back to Germany container, quickly opened the lid and ate the morsel of food inside.

Not an ordinarily superstitious people, Germans have become believers in Paul's possible psychic powers. The country was shocked and distraught when he picked Spain to beat Germany after tipping German wins over Argentina, England, Ghana and Australia.

Paul's selections have become top news across Germany and around the world. Some commentators even wondered aloud whether his improbable winning streak might have begun to influence some of the more superstitious players.

But after Paul accurately picked Spain to beat Germany in the semi-final, some Germans called for a public roasting of the oracle octopus. Newspapers and websites were filled with suggestions on how to cook and eat him.

Officials at Sea Life in Oberhausen have installed extra security to protect their octopus.

"Paul is in safe hands with us," said Munzig.

Spain's Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero was quoted in Spanish media reports saying -- in jest -- he was concerned about Paul's safety.

"I am concerned for the octopus...I am thinking of sending him a protective team," Zapatero said.

Spain's Environment and Fisheries Minister Elena Espinosa also said: "On Monday I shall be at the European Council of Ministers and I shall be asking for a (fishing) ban on Paul the octopus so Germans do not eat him."

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