Photo: Dmitri Lovetsky (AP)

Happy World Cup day! The real competition begins today. Not the soccer; the psychic animals.

Achilles, a deaf, cross-eyed white cat who works as a mouser at St. Petersburg’s Hermitage Museum, is the clear front-runner among what promises to be a bumper crop of animals picking the winners of these matches. He has been working hard to get ready for this tournament, according to Russia’s state-run news agency TASS, “training to shed weight and get more fit, as well as to be more definite in the forecasts without paying attention to camera flashes and the presence of unfamiliar people.”

He looks fit enough, but perhaps not quite ready for the spotlight. At his selection today for the opening match between Russia and Saudi Arabia, Achilles did a lot of squirming and a lot of staring before eventually eating from the bowl of food marked with the Russian flag. Russia it is!

Anna Kondratyeva, the Hermitage’s veterinarian, later said that Achilles “loves his motherland and couldn’t vote otherwise.”

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Achilles was then squeezed into a Russia jersey, a process he bore with impressive patience.

In other psychic animal predictions:

  • Shaheen the camel selected Russia.
  • Mystic Marcus the pig predicts a final four of Belgium, Argentina, Nigeria, and Uruguay.
  • Citta the elephant is only picking Poland’s matches, and she correctly had them beating Lithuania in a pre-Cup friendly earlier this week.
  • Datou the dog picked Russia to win today, and Iceland to win the World Cup.
  • Baby pandas will not be making their selections, as once again Chinese vets have banned the idea because it might be too stressful for the little guys.
  • Clam the psychic clam is dead and in hell.