x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

World Cup diary: Paul the Octopus makes his final pick

Paul, the Octopus Oracle, yesterday made his biggest prediction yet: Spain will beat the Netherlands in the final.

Paul, the Octopus Oracle, yesterday made his biggest prediction yet: Spain will beat the Netherlands in the final. Paul's picks in the World Cup - he has yet to predict a match incorrectly - have propelled him to international fame from obscurity a month ago in an aquarium in the western German city of Oberhausen. Millions watched as Paul descended upon on a tank marked with a Spanish flag, sitting for only a few minutes before grabbing a mussel and devouring it, while ignoring the Dutch tank ? indicating a Spanish victory in the final match tomorrow. Paul also predicted the third-place match, choosing Germany over Uruguay.

The hotel rooms belonging Spanish players Sergio Busquets and Pedro Rodriguez were robbed ahead of their semi-final win over Germany in Durban, Spanish media reported. Busquets lost documents and about ?800 (Dh3,700). Pedro reportedly lost about ?1,000 from his safe. Busquets yesterday said that "nobody likes to be robbed but I'll exchange all of my documents for the World Cup".

South Africa's airport management body says it will reimburse hundreds of fans who missed the Spain-Germany semi-final because of congestion at Durban airport. At least 600 fans in six aircraft missed the match after an increase in private jets at King Shaka airport contributed to all the landing slots being filled and the flights diverted to Johannesburg. Airports Company South Africa said yesterday that it has set aside 400,000 rand (Dh194,000) to be distributed to those affected.

Germany's Thomas Mueller is among three candidates on the short list for the Best Young Player award. Andre Ayew of Ghana and Mexico's Giovani dos Santos are also in contention for the honour. Players must be born after January 1989.

Leading tournament scorers Wesley Sneijder of the Netherlands and David Villa of Spain head the list of 10 nominees for the World Cup Golden Ball award. Fifa announced the list yesterday. It was selected by its technical study group. Also nominated were Diego Forlan of Uruguay, Asamoah Gyan of Ghana, Andres Iniesta of Spain, Lionel Messi of Argentina, Mesut Ozil of Germany, Arjen Robben of the Netherlands, Bastian Schweinsteiger of Germany and Xavi Hernandez of Spain. A media vote will determine the winner.

Fifa will look at changing football's rules after a goal-line handball by Uruguay striker Luis Suarez denied Ghana a place in the World Cup semi-finals. Sepp Blatter, the Fifa president, said that changes can be considered at an October meeting of its rules-making panel. He referred specifically to Suarez batting a ball out of the goal in a quarter-final match with Ghana. However, Blatter dismissed the possible creation of a rule to award "penalty goals" when handballs clearly prevented a score, likely limiting the panel's scope to review disciplinary sanctions.

The Italian Roberto Rosetti quit refereeing on Thursday but said his decision had nothing to do with allowing a clearly offside goal in the World Cup. Rosetti, 42, who took charge of the Euro 2008 final, has opted to retire and become the referee designator for Serie B less than two weeks after Carlos Tevez's goal was allowed to stand in Argentina's 3-1 victory over Mexico.

Sepp Blatter, the president of Fifa, lavished praise on South Africa's World Cup stadiums, saying they were better than those in Europe. "These stadiums are jewels from the architectural point of view, they are really, really good stadiums," he said. "There is not one single European country which has so many good and high-level stadiums as the ones here in South Africa."

Thousands of people in Holland tried to find last-minute flights to South Africa for the championship match tomorrow, and most were disappointed. KLM Royal Dutch Airlines arranged three special flights from Amsterdam and one from Paris to carry extra fans to Johannesburg today. Wim Gramsma, manager of the Oad Travel Agency which partners with the Dutch football association, said 12,000 people applied for the 1,000 seats that went on sale after Tuesday's 2-1 semi-final victory over Uruguay.