Among the league of creatures generating World Cup fever are Qian Hu Corporation's Small Huat (above), Germany's Nelly the elephant, and The Straits Times' Tiki and Taka. -- PHOTOS: SEAH KWANG PENG, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, LIM YAOHUI FOR THE STRAITS TIM
SMALL and nimble, they scurry around on fast feet and have names synonymous with Spanish football.
You know Xavi and Andres Iniesta. Now, meet Tiki and Taka, The Straits Times' resident hamsters which will also be on World Cup duty.
Animal "oracles" have been all the rage since the late Paul the Octopus made 10 out of 10 correct predictions in the 2010 World Cup. While never scientifically proven, the fad caught on through a series of air, aquatic and land creatures being touted as rivals to the cephalopod from Germany's Oberhausen Sea Life Centre.
However, Tiki and Taka are not animal psychics which can be relied upon to give accurate World Cup predictions.
Instead, they will join in the World Cup fever by starring in a series of videos on ST's World Cup microsite, where they will each represent an opposing country and race in hamster balls. The first to roll into a designated goal will be declared the victor.
Tiki, a winter-white pearl-coloured female, and Taka, a brown-backed white-faced male, will kick off their World Cup series next week, previewing the clash between Uruguay and England. Both hamsters have been receiving good care and nutrition in ST's office and will not be harmed in the making of the videos.
More animals are joining the league of prophets this year, following Paul's wild success during the 2010 World Cup.
Brazil's chosen animal "seer" is a loggerhead sea turtle named Cabecao, whose name translates to Big Head. It has picked the host nation to kick off their campaign with a victory against Croatia.
Closer to home are ornamental fish seller Qian Hu Corporation's arowana soothsayers, Big Huat and Small Huat, which will make their predictions by swimming towards containers of fish food bearing nations' flags. Both arowanas are going against the Selecao.
Big Huat has predicted a draw, while Small Huat has predicted an upset win for Croatia.
Succeeding Paul in Germany is Nelly the elephant, which accurately predicted Bayern Munich's victory over Borussia Dortmund in last year's Champions League final, and was correct in 30 of 33 predictions during the 2006 Women's World Cup, 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012.