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Two giant pandas have predicted that Argentina will win the World Cup over France

Thuraya, the female Panda sent by China to Qatar as a gift for the World Cup, walks in a shelter at the Panda House Garden in Al Khor, near Doha, Qatar.
Lujain Jo
Thuraya, the female Panda sent by China to Qatar as a gift for the World Cup, walks in a shelter at the Panda House Garden in Al Khor, near Doha, Qatar.

The pandas have spoken.

The giant pandas Thuraya and Suhail have predicted that Argentina will beat France in the World Cup final in Qatar on Sunday.

The two pandas, gifted to Qatar by China ahead of this year's World Cup, chose Argentina over France in a video captured by Qatari broadcaster beIN Sports.

The pandas have been casting their guesses ahead of each match since November. And so far, they've done a pretty good job.

The pandas correctly predictedthat Argentina would beat Croatia in the first semifinal match last week, and they also rightly chose France over Morocco.

What are the pandas doing in Qatar?

China gifted the two giant pandas to Qatar in October ahead of the World Cup as a symbol of strengthening Chinese-Qatari relations.

Thuraya, a 3-year-old female, and Suhail, a 4-year-old male, have Chinese names, too: Si Hai and Jing Jing, respectively. They were given Arabic names upon arrival.

In October, Chinese Ambassador to Qatar Zhou Jian said the two pandas "will live a happy life here and bring more happiness, joy and a love to the people of Qatar and in this world."

The practice of "panda diplomacy" — sending pandas abroad as a symbol of goodwill — dates back to the Cold War, when former Chinese President Mao Zedong gifted pandas to both the Soviet Union and the United States after each officially recognized the Chinese Communist Party.

In 2015, then-First Lady Michelle Obama welcomed a baby panda from China to the National Zoo, sharing the honor with former First Lady Pat Nixon, who did the same in 1972.

There are about 1,800 giant pandas left in the wild and 500 in captivity.

They join a growing cohort of animal oracles

Thuraya and Suhail are not the only animals making high-stakes forecasts.

Nicholas, a bottlenose dolphin of the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, is a sports prediction veteran who correctly chose France over Croatia in the 2018 World Cup. The 20-year-old bottlenose also cast his pick for this year's FIFA final, saying France would beat Argentina.

And in 2010, an octopus named Paul correctly predicted Spain's victory over the Netherlands in South Africa.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Mary Yang
Mary Yang is an intern on the Business Desk where she covers technology, media, labor and the economy. She comes to NPR from Foreign Policy where she covered the beginning of Russia's war in Ukraine and built a beat on Southeast Asia, Asia and the Pacific Islands.