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Winter World Cup: Cold spell kills penguins

This reality may not have registered with geographically challenged soccer fans until now: South Africa is indeed in the Southern Hemisphere, which means the country is about to enter winter.

And yes, it can get cold in Africa.

Any doubts? Then ponder today's snow sightings on Cape Town's Table Mountain or the passing of almost 500 penguin chicks on an island in the Eastern Cape Province. Reason for the penguins' deaths? Cold.

"The chicks, aged between a few weeks old and about two-months-old and covered only with down feathers, succumbed to the cold and wet weather which has hit Bird Island," a spokeswoman for South African National Parks said in a statement.

The World Cup started in a pleasant if not balmy climate, but temperatures have dropped significantly today from Cape Town to Johannesburg. The current forecast predicts close to freezing temperatures in Johannesburg for tonight's match between Brazil and North Korea at Ellis Park's stadium. While the cold spell may soon allow soccer supporters to hit the slopes at the country's only ski resort in between matches, it could also have an impact on the field.

The prevailing thinking is that cold temperatures boost European teams' chances at the expense of others. During last year's Confederations Cup, a dress rehearsal tournament that took place here at the same time of the year, Brazilians agreed. They complained about the cold and wore gloves and extra layers when playing. Their own results proved their own worries were exaggerated, however. Kaka and Co. won that tournament, beating the U.S. 3-2 in the final.