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Russia picks deaf museum cat as World Cup oracle
In this file photo taken on June 22, 2017 Achille the cat, one of the State Hermitage Museum mice hunters, approaches an Australian national flag during a prediction event of the results of the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup group B football match between Cameroon and Australia, in Saint Petersburg. Achille, a white and deaf cat, was chosen on March 12, 2018 as the official "animal oracle" for the FIFA World Cup (June 14 to July 15). Olga MALTSEVA / AFP.

MOSCOW (AFP).- Russia on Monday named a deaf white cat who lives in Saint Petersburg's historic Hermitage Museum as its official prognosticator for the World Cup.

Achilles the Cat will hope to repeat the fabled exploits of Paul the Octopus and other "psychic" animals tasked with predicting winners of football's showpiece event.

"We will hold a special press conference and hand Achilles a Fan ID card," the Hermitage Museum's cat press secretary Mary Khaltunen told the R-Sport news agency.

The fact that Russia's most fabled collection of art has a spokeswoman for cats may be news to some.

But R-Sport says Hermitage Museum cats are legion -- and apparently football experts.

The cats were first brought to the Hermitage when Peter the Great made its Winter Palace into the new imperial home in the 17th century.

Empress Elizabeth of Russia eventually issued a decree demanding "the shipment of cats to the court".

The Hermitage was turned into a private art collection after Catherine the Great's death in 1796.

The Hermitage's Cat Museum founder Anna Kondratyeva said Achilles went on sabbatical and "put on a belly" after also picking winners in last year's Confederations Cup in Russia.

It was not immediately clear how well he did.

But the 4.7-kilogramme (10.4-pound) feline would have to be in top form to repeat Paul the Octopus's correct prediction of all seven German wins at the 2010 World Cup.

The octopus also correctly picked final winner Spain by settling its tentacles over the Spanish flag when it was lowered into Paul's tank.

Achilles's selection process will be less dramatic: the cat will simply sticks his snout into the winning bowl of food.

"Achilles was born deaf, which may explain his heightened intuition," R-Sport wrote.

© Agence France-Presse

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