Reporting from Johannesburg, South Africa —
Paul the octopus has spoken — sort of — and he says Spain will win Sunday's World Cup final.
The mind-bending mollusk, who has yet to miss a World Cup prediction, ignored a tank marked with a Dutch flag Friday and instead descended on one with a Spanish flag, reaching in to grab a mussel and devour it as TV cameras from Germany, Great Britain, Taiwan and elsewhere looked on.
It was the first time the octopus, who lives in an aquarium in the western German city of Oberhausen, has been asked to pick a game in which Germany was not involved. But in his nearly 2½ years as an oracle, dating to the 2008 European Championship, he has called 11 of 12 matches correctly. In the World Cup he predicted Germany would beat Argentina, England, Australia and Ghana but also called losses to Serbia and Spain.
Paul's fame has earned him his own Facebook page in addition to calls to lend his special powers. A Greek reporter asked whether Paul could predict the end of his country's financial crisis, while in the Middle East commentators sought to have Paul choose the next Iraqi prime minister.
Nevertheless Paul's prestige is being questioned in the animal kingdom. In Singapore, Mani, a World Cup-forecasting parakeet, is picking the Netherlands to win Sunday.
It's not the way either team hoped to end its World Cup, but Saturday's game between Germany and Uruguay in Port Elizabeth will decide third place in the tournament.
For German striker Miroslav Klose, one goal would tie him with Brazilian striker Ronaldo for most World Cup goals ever with 15. And Uruguay's Diego Forlan, Klose and German teammate Thomas Mueller, with four goals each, remain in the running for the Golden Boot, which goes to the tournament's top scorer. Spain's David Villa and Holland's Wesley Sneijder go into Sunday's final sharing the lead with five goals apiece.
European soccer chief hospitalized
Michel Platini, a former French World Cup star and now the president of European soccer's governing body, fainted in a restaurant Friday and was taken to a Johannesburg hospital, where tests showed his condition was not serious.
Preliminary news reports said Platini had suffered a possible heart attack but sources close to the 55-year-old said his fainting was due to flu-like symptoms and a mild fever.
Mexico's Dos Santos up for honor
Mexican playmaker Giovani Dos Santos, 21, is one of three candidates for the best young player award at the World Cup. The award will be announced after Sunday's final.
Mueller and Andre Ayew of Ghana, both 20, are also up for the award. To be eligible, players must be born after January 1989.
Times wire services contributed to this report.