With just under two weeks to go until rehearsals get underway in Baku; this is an opportune moment to briefly explain how my thoughts have progressed since I last updated the semi-final articles. A number of visitors have subtly suggested an updated article was needed and without wishing to concede interest to our competitors, here’s a rundown of my current thoughts and a brief outline of what to expect from esctips during the rehearsal period.
Over the last couple of weeks, the OGAE poll has well and truly swung into life and according to the results to date, Sweden are the runaway victors. Regular readers will understand the utter contempt I hold for Eurovision polls, especially the post analysis triumphant chest beating whereby various Eurovision sites plant their flag as being the most accurate of them all. Closer examination usually quells their crock of shitty hyperbole.
Whilst optimism for Sweden in the polls is warranted, other countries require closer scrutiny, as does the suggestion that three Scandinavian countries could all occupy the top-5. One has to go back to 2003 in the days of the 100% televote to witness three Scandinavian countries in the top-10. In short, Sweden, Iceland and Norway cannot all occupy the top-5 – it doesn’t happen. Not forgetting Denmark; they too will not make it four in the top-10. I will be analysing which of the Scandinavian countries will fail to finish in the top-10 during the rehearsals.
A further trend since the reintroduction of the juries has been the rarity of multiple dance songs entering the top-10. With Sweden, Romania, Russia and Norway all pushing for top-10 finishes, the likes of Cyprus, Ireland and France have little chance of making a mark. Both Cyprus and France have desperately inflated poll ratings. Cyprus will do well to qualify and France will most likely jostle around 15th-20th place. In my opinion, the fun and summery-sounding Romania is the most likely contender to battle for a high top-10 finish given the diaspora and friendly voting at their disposal.
A further poll worth mentioning is from escstats. Another betting site that shall not be named, regards this poll as being extremely accurate. After some research, it seems confidence in this poll is ill founded as the polling data could point to any number of potential outcomes; it’s like trying to read tealeaves or searching for meaning in a Jackson Pollock. As I’ve said before, finding value in polls is always easier with hindsight. So far this year, escstats have four Scandinavian countries in the top-10. I’m sorry, but unless the pigs in the nearby field have started sprouting their summer plumage – it isn’t happening! Before I forget, they are also joined by that pink favourite, Cyprus, who have zero chance of entering the top-10. Before I forget, escstats failed to pick Rybak in 2009! Enough of this prodding and poking fun at polls; let’s progress to the semi-finals…
My thoughts for semi-final 1 have shifted ever so slightly. I am of the opinion that Israel will now fail to qualify rather than struggle to qualify, mostly due to the lead singer’s lack of allure and resemblance to a 1970s geography teacher. Switzerland may just about sneak through with their improving performances, but I’m afraid the jury is still out on Albania’s serial screecher! Rona does a faultless impression of the Wicked Witch of the West’s dying moans.
After an improved live performance at Eurovision in Concert, Hungary may surprise and should be watched; however, they are desperately short of friendly votes and don’t seem to exude sufficient charisma to enjoy support from neutral fans.
Some of you will be hoping for some comments on Jedward. There are a number of four-letter words in Mickey’s vocabulary that could aptly refer to the blond quiffed embarrassments from the Emerald Isle. As some commenters have correctly pointed out, Ireland only scored 8th place from last in the running order in Dusseldorf, securing qualification with only 15 points to spare. Waterline is not as immediate as Lipstick, and there’s a sense that the on-stage dramatics and general pissing about could turn people off, especially having stomached Austria’s 3-minutes of agony just two songs previous. Will viewers conclude they’ve already seen it all before? I’m sure I will be discussing Ireland’s chances in more detail after their rehearsal, once we’ve been presented with their latest madcap ideas to divert attention from their unquestionable inability to sing.
The win market is wide open, but I have backed Romania & Iceland for a top-3 finish at over evens, which in my opinion was the better value option. Once rehearsals start, I’ll get back to you regarding an outright winner. At this point, Denmark is not guaranteed the win, albeit their running order slot is advantageous. Cyprus is massively overrated though!
This semi-final is still a potential minefield and certainly not as clear-cut as some would have us believe. Not wishing to be a victim of the annual kick-in-the-balls the semi-finals frequently deliver with an excruciating and eye-watering thud, I’m playing semi-final 2 with extreme caution.
With the three main voting blocs each having a considerable representation, there could be some major casualties falling and equally, some surprise names in the running order draw.
I’m still smitten with Slovakia’s rock song and I’m eagerly awaiting their rehearsal, as there could be some very good value on Slovakia provided the live performance is as captivating as the tune. I’m thinking more for the final, but I always have at least one crazy bet for the semi-finals. Max could be it.
Slovenia has already made my non-qualification bet list, with about 3 points riding on Eva failing to capture enough of the Balkan vote share. Similarly, I now fear Croatia may suffer the same fate. Both will be forgettable after the upbeat performances of Sweden, Georgia, Turkey, Slovakia, Norway and Lithuania. Of the following ballads, Estonia and Bosnia will surely capture more support too, as both are later in the running order and thus fresher in the viewer’s memories. It’s a conundrum, but one I’m happy to watch unfold without getting too involved.
On the subject of the Balkans, some enticing value emerged last week when Stan James opened their outright semi-final markets. They priced Bosnia & Herzegovina at 41.0 to win, which in my opinion was far too generous considering their running order slot, voting allies and potential jury appeal.
While the likes of Sweden and Norway should enjoy a competitive televote score, Bosnia and Serbia should enjoy universal support from both the juries and televoters. That said Sweden and Serbia are the rightful favourites for this semi-final. On the subject of Norway and returning to an earlier point, it is rare to get two outright dance songs in the top-10 at Eurovision. It is even rarer to witness two in the top-3 of the semi-finals.
The last few weeks has seen Italy replace Russia in becoming the second favourite and potential overall winner if the juries fail to take to Loreen’s Euphoria. In my view, Euphoria will be a jury darling and I do not envisage any other song pushing for 1st place. Whilst I dislike Eurovision polls, they are unequivocally clear in their declaration of Sweden as winner – and that is hard to ignore.
Those countries vying for a place include:
Azerbaijan: An underrated jury-friendly song from a nation with massive voting allies. Pre-contest tours have demonstrated Sabina’s vocal prowess.
Germany: Western appealing pop-ballad. Roman should attract the female vote, but his song fails to deliver the big moments some of his fellow frontrunners deliver in bundles. Well placed in the running order, but could be hampered by surrounding performers. Top-10 is a safer bet.
Italy: A worthy favourite for a placed finish, but hardly a done deal. There is far more competition for jury backing this year.
Romania: The annual fun song that should attract universal support. Very much overpriced and a shoe-in for a top-10 finish.
Russia: Minimal jury support, but has benefited from huge viral coverage of their song. They should pick up the ‘fun’ and ‘arrhhh vote.
Serbia: Zelkjo returns with another silky, but underwhelming ballad. Nevertheless, Serbia should enjoy a high finish thanks to regional voting, diaspora and jury support.
Spain: Dramatic and typically Spanish. Another jury friendly ballad, but from a country that struggles to muster support. Despite the favourable draw, I predict Spain will still overlooked by voters.
During rehearsals, I’ll be tweeting and updating a live blog with all the information you need to make reasoned decisions and to take advantage of the best odds in a rapidly changing market. If you’re not already following us, do so now!