Berlin, Jun 26 : During last year's World Cup in South Africa, Paul the Octopus shot to fame for his accurate match predictions, so for the women's competition starting in Germany on Sunday, step forward ... Paula.
The tentacled tipster was put through her paces on Friday in Konstanz in southern Germany, but made the shock choice that Canada will win Sunday's opening match against the hosts in Berlin.
The octopus, whose gender is actually unknown, had to choose between two compartments in a plastic box in its tank, one with a Germany flag and one with a Canada one, with each containing a tasty morsel.
The prediction is a bold one as Germany, whose women are hoping to win their third consecutive World Cup, have never lost any of their previous nine matches to Canada.
Paula, however, is only one of eight salty soothsayers housed at eight different Sea Life centres in Germany competing to become the official successor to British-born Paul, who lived in an aquarium in Oberhausen.
All eight will be asked to predict the outcome of all Germany's matches in the June 26-July 17 women's competition.
While Paula and an eight-legged colleague in Munich both backed Canada on Friday, the fishy forecasters in Berlin, Koenigswinter and Oberhausen plumped for Germany, making the combined predictions 3-2 in the hosts' favour.
But the method of enticing the underwater oracles to predict the winner proved to be far from fool-proof -- three octopuses in other locations in Germany snubbed the treats on offer and ignored both boxes.
This was determined by aquarium officials to mean that they expect a draw.
Meanwhile one-year-old African elephant Nelly got in on the forecasting act at the Serengeti Park in Hodenhagen, near Hanover, by predicting a win for Germany after opting to kick a ball into the Canada net when given a choice.
But it is all a far cry so far from last summer's performances by Paul -- who has become something of an icon here -- after he kept a clean sheet in the men's competition in South Africa.
He correctly foretold the outcome of all Germany's games, even a defeat to Serbia in the group stage and to Spain in the semi-finals, as well as Spain's eventual victory in the final.
In the process he cost bookmakers a fortune and won worldwide fame, with rolling news channels in Germany carrying live coverage when he was asked to choose -- as they did with Paula on Friday.
Paul died aged nearly three in October, sparking hundreds of messages of condolence from his fan club on social networking website Facebook, whose ranks have more than tripled since his death to more than 200,000. (AFP)