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Rediff.com  » Sports » Euro 24: Can E. Coli bacteria predict match results?

Euro 24: Can E. Coli bacteria predict match results?

June 21, 2024 21:04 IST
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IMAGE: A petri dish, "bacteria oracle", predicting the outcome of the soccer-friendly match between Germany and Ukraine is pictured at the microbiology laboratory of Professor Markus Egert in Villingen-Schwenningen, Germany. Photograph: Christine Uyanik/Reuters

Spare a thought for Hilla the 'oracle' sea lion from Leipzig Zoo, whose reputation for football prophesy is hanging by a thread after she predicted Scotland would hold Germany to an unlikely draw at Euro 2024.

Had she not watched the two sides? Did she know nothing of football history and Scotland's repeated failures at major tournaments? Seemingly not and the 5-1 thrashing dealt out to Steve Clarke's side by the hosts has called Hilla's soothsaying credentials into question.

No major football tournament would be complete without a host of fortune-telling animals but surprisingly, or perhaps not, not all of these 'oracles' turn out to be very good.

Hilla has since regained some respectability by correctly predicting Germany would beat Hungary, a result that immediately elevated her above Oobi-Ooobi, another Leipzig based clairvoyant, in the oracle league table.

Poor Oobi-Ooobi, a koala who looked less than impressed to be hauled in front of a camera to do his soothsaying, was a designated oracle at Euro 2016, but just couldn't catch a break. Forced to choose between eucalyptus leaves in containers bearing the competing countries' flags, he got it wrong every time.

Of course, like all oracles, it is possible that their messages are just misunderstood.

When the Oracle at Delphi famously told Croesus, King of Lydia, that if he waged war on the Persians he would destroy a great kingdom, he was delighted. A kingdom was destroyed, but it was his own.

So when Hilla, who seemed equally comfortable with both her left and right flipper, knocked the German and Scottish balls towards goal, she could just have been predicting a second-half consolation for the Scots and not the unlikely draw her keepers assumed.

There were no such excuses for Suzie, a 15-stone (95-kg) pig who tucked into a clearly-labelled bucket of food bearing an England flag, shunning Italy, when asked to predict the Euro 2020 final result.

Suzie clearly did not think that Gareth Southgate's side would retreat into their shell after taking an early lead or consider England's terrible record in penalty shootouts if it was all square after extra time.

 

There was also Mani the parakeet, whose early good form at the 2010 World Cup ended in disappointment with semi-final and final failures or the animals at Chemnitz Zoo who were wrong on all of Germany's group-stage games at the same tournament.

Anyone who thinks the phenomenon of non-humans predicting football results has gone too far has clearly never been to Switzerland where psychic gut bacteria determined incorrectly that the Swiss would beat Scotland on Wednesday.

Yet in another blow to Hilla's credibility, some E. coli bacteria in Germany managed to predict that the hosts would beat Scotland in the tournament's opener.

Germany's trains may have occasionally struggled to cope with the hordes of fans at Euro 2024, but this hasn't stopped one operator in Hamburg entering into the true spirit of an international tournament -- using a train to punt a football into a goal to try to predict the outcomes of matches.

So it seems that for every Paul the Octopus, the trend setter whose uncanny divinations during the 2010 World Cup alerted every PR department in the world to the human appetite for implausible animal seers, there are countless less impressive pets, trains and even petri dishes.

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Source: REUTERS
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