Last night’s jury rehearsal cleared away some of the fog, but so much of this semi-final still remains shrouded in mist.
Lithuania deliver a vibrant show opener that should stick in the memories of TV viewers. With a decent amount of diaspora to count on, Monika & Vaidas should boost what could be slightly lower ranking from the jury and survive the cull for Saturday’s final.
Molly still looks a bit glum, and despite the song’s authentic composition and presentation, Ireland is a distant memory with ballads from Montenegro, Malta, Norway, Czech Republic, Latvia, Azerbaijan, Cyprus and Poland to follow. Moreover, any kind of “awww, isn’t she nice” votes will be absorbed by John Karayiannis. Given I have Lithuania qualifying from the opening slot, I struggle to add Ireland to my list.
Edit: Someone told me I had forgotten Montenegro, which sort of represents my feelings for Knez’ song. He delivered a solid jury rehearsal last night, but I think problem lies with Montenegro’s likely televote. Last year Sergej qualified from the penultimate slot in the running order, despite coming 12th on the televote with one or two more allies. This year, Knez faces a much stiffer challenge from fourth in the running order with Malta and Norway to follow and a slightly lesser number of allies. I think it could be this semi-final’s 11th or 12th.
San Marino. Need I say more? Chain of Light might encourage anti-voting from some quarters, but we should also expect some alleged prearranged votes from certain other nations. Don’t worry, it won’t be enough to earn qualification, but it might be enough to avoid last place.
Amber next, and on our table, she’s nicknamed something I really shouldn’t repeat. She strikes a lonely figure on the Stadthalle stage and has been prone to screaming one or two shouty, off-key notes. Amber delivered when it mattered last night, so Malta might have enough jury support in the bank. Talking about finances, Malta were saved by a highly suspect douze-point from FYRoM last year. This year’s song is arguably more jury friendly, but only if Amber can hit the notes. The qualification threshold is likely to be around 55-points. Even with alleged skullduggery, Malta will need additional support from neutral nations.
Simplicity is sometimes best. In Norway’s case, this appears to be true. Mørland & Debrah Scarlett deliver solid vocals with believable chemistry. Even though they dropped the successful circling camera concept from their national final, Monster Like Me has evocative enough staging to qualify and push on for top-10.
Portugal should be in contention for last place in this semi-final. Leonor is a confident and charismatic performer, but the song is too inaccessible for non-Portuguese speakers.
Marta & Václav also fail to deliver the big moments their song promised, and with Marta throwing her shoes to the rear of the stage for the second chorus, the Czech Republic’s chances of qualification appear to be dwindling with each rehearsal. Václav also gets too shouty on the final note, which makes the embrace appear unnatural and uncomfortable.
Just like Serbia lifted the mood in semi-final 1, Israel looks set to get the parted started from ninth in the running order. Nadav’s multi-genre song may not delight all of the national juries, but we know Golden Boy will go down a storm in the west, particularly in the UK, Ireland and Nordic nations. Unlike previous Israeli entries, Nadav is likeable and doesn’t sing in Hebrew, which should at least secure extra support.
In terms of visuals, Latvia is one of only a handful of countries to extract the very best from the Stadthalle stage. The song is rather left-field, but like Belgium on Tuesday, I can see both the juries and televoters ranking Aminata high. Love Injection is a visual triumph that should see Latvia make the final for the first time since Wolves of the Sea.
Azerbaijan, on the other hand, are at risk of suffering their first ever non-qualification. The Caspian Sea bounded nation has zero support in this semi-final, other than from those nations it has allegedly traded with pre-2014. Something tells me they can’t be as blatant as in previous years. Even the Malta douze-points might have to be reigned in! However, there are other nations they could call upon. In my opinion, Elnur is worth taking on at 1.14.
María Ólafs really pulled it together last night, but there’s still a nagging doubt over whether the juries will get behind such a poorly arranged song. Iceland have a couple of allies that gives them a head start, and in this western-leaning semi-final, other countries may serve up some light support. Will it be enough?
It may not come as news to you, but Sweden is qualifying. Måns Zelmerlöw still lacks that winning performance for me, and with only four second-half final slots remaining, Måns might not get the draw he needs and thus fail to be the hero of our time.
As has been discussed in previous articles, and during our fourth podcast, Mélanie René really knows how to sell Time to Shine. The problem for Switzerland is that Time to Shine is a filler song, wedged between the charismatic Scandiedroid, Herr Zelmerlöw, and the mum & grannie catnip, Kýrios Karayiannis.
John Karayiannis’ song may lack the instant hook most fans demand, but One Thing I should Have Done is transformed on the Eurovision stage. With a stunning set of galactic visuals, combined with audience-mobile-phone-lighting, people will fall in love with the Cyprus‘ song and I can see this qualifying comfortably and potentially landing a top-3 finish.
After the understated brilliance of Cyprus, Slovenia comes across as a dull and rather confusing three-minutes to follow. Here for You is great radio hit, but with the headphones and air-violinist dancer, the TV package doesn’t make you want pick up the phone and vote. Like Albania on Tuesday, it’s a bit too beige. Given Slovenia’s lack of allies, they are far too short in the market and worth taking on with some cheap lays.
Our last semi-finalist of the year is Poland. Monika has a great USP, which is emphasised in the VT and from the start of the song. Being wheelchair-bound will attract a stronger sympathy vote than the four disabled punk rockers in semi-final 1. The problem for Poland is Monika’s tendency to drift off-key or sound breathy. Diaspora should get them close, but it’s an outcome that makes me very nervous.
So here are my list of 10 qualifiers:
This is a dangerous semi-final with too many 50/50 shots that could leave your bank bruised. It’s worth focussing on the jury favourites and taking on those short priced nations like Slovenia and Azerbaijan, just in case there’s a shock. My exposure isn’t as high as semi-final 1 and I’ll continue to play this market with great caution.
In terms of betting potential, Cyprus looks high at 20/1 each-way to 3-places at BetFair Sportsbook. I would recommend Israel, but the 50/1 each-way available earlier this week has gone, having got a few quid on it myself.
Switzerland not to qualify is available at 1.53 Boylesports, which is better value than Betfair Exchange at the moment.
Good luck… and please remember to bet responsibly.