CURITIBA

The World Cup 2014 has generated many flops. From flop defending champions Spain to players like Cristiano Ronaldo, many eyebrows have been raised and many question marks are being put around them. But there are some other flops off the field who were once in heroic limelight during the last World Cup thanks to Paul the Octopus, who is 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.

Australia Zoo's Predictaroo, also known as Flopsy the Kangaroo, bounced out of contention when she called Portugal to see off Germany and the Socceroos to beat the Netherlands. 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.