Wondering who’ll win World Cup? Ask Russia’s Achilles!

Monday June 11 2018

Achilles the cat, one of the State Hermitage Museum mice hunters, is pictured outside the museum in Saint Petersburg on June 7, 2018. A deaf, white cat named Achilles is soon to begin his work as Russia's official soothsayer for the World Cup, following in the tentacle-prints of Paul the Octopus who became a star in 2010. PHOTO | OLGA MALTSEVA |

Achilles the cat, one of the State Hermitage Museum mice hunters, is pictured outside the museum in Saint Petersburg on June 7, 2018. A deaf, white cat named Achilles is soon to begin his work as Russia's official soothsayer for the World Cup, following in the tentacle-prints of Paul the Octopus who became a star in 2010. PHOTO | OLGA MALTSEVA |  AFP

By CHARLES NYENDE
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The late Paul the Octopus gained fame during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, predicting correctly virtually all the matches he was tasked to give an outcome.

The English-born, German-based mollusc Oracle rightly predicted all the fixtures involving his adopted country Germany. The invertebrate, endowed with appendages, also correctly predicted that Spain would beat the Netherlands in the final.

I now hear that a Saint Petersburg-based cat called Achilles, mainly employed to catch rats in the city museum, is being touted as Russia’s official soothsayer for the 2018 World Cup. 

Other oracles have also come out over the years to make predictions, including Swiss guinea pig Madame Shiva and British Piranha Pele, but nothing came off it.
I will not talk about our African oracles because their prediction of the continent instilling great fear in the opposition and conquering the rest of the world has never come to pass. The predictions of these ‘masters’ of dark forces have been as lousy as yours and mine.

What I can tell you for free is that the 20 World Cup tournaments held so far have been won by only eight national teams.

Brazil have lifted the title five times, Germany and Italy, have four titles each; Argentina and inaugural winners Uruguay, with two championships each; and England, France and Spain, with one Cup victory apiece.

It is almost 100 per cent guaranteed that the winner in 2018 Russia World Cup will come from one of the past winners, all from either Europe or South America.

With this knowledge you can start filtering other historic facts. The most recent one as the failure of Italy to qualify for the 2018 finals. England’s best showing after their 1966 triumph is a semi-final appearance in 1990. You decide here.

Now, it you look closely at where the World Cup tournaments have been hosted, an interesting fact comes up. When the World Cup is held in Europe, a team from the home continent wins and when it is held in South America, a country from the host continent triumphs. There are only two exceptions to that.

Brazil won the world title in Sweden in 1958, thumping the hosts 5-2 at a jam packed Rasunda Stadium in Stockholm.

Then in 2014, an efficient German side under the very capable Joachim Loew won the World Cup in Brazil, edging out Argentina 1-0 in extra time at the Mecca of football, the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janiero.

Here is another fact to consider. Only two teams have successfully retained the trophy. Italy (1934, 1938) and Brazil (1950, 1954).

Interestingly, Brazil won it in Europe and retained it in South America. Remember reigning champions Germany clinched their current title in South America. Can they repeat the pattern in Russia?

Finally, no continent had ever held on to the Cup for more than two consecutive editions until 2014 when Germany won to add to Spain’s victory in 2010 and Italy’s in 2006. You be the oracle.

My one prediction is, hosts Russia will not win the 2018 World Cup.