So here we are at the final already and what a final it has turned out to be. From what was a very low bar, we’ve somehow stumbled across a decent lineup of songs, barring one or two cringe moments. Here’s our country-by-country analysis:
Israel kicks off the final in the Laura Tesoro memorial slot; however, I’m not anticipating a repeat of last year’s 10th place given the Tooji crossover and stronger upbeat entries on offer later in the running order. No bet advised.
Poland probably did well on the televote in semi-final 1, but in sending Kasia out in second, the producers are trying to quell such support and prevent a Polish incursion into the top-10. Given the strength at the top this year, I rather suspect the producers will be successful.
Back in 2011, Belarus finished eight-points shy of last place with Butterflies, which was, admittedly, quite a horrific tune. It was the Georgian 12-points that saved their blushes and that might come into play again this year. It’s not an outcome I’m willing to take on, so no bet recommended.
Likewise, the rather anodyne Austria may also struggle in this gradual shifting up the gears to this year’s favourites. Austria doesn’t boast a solid televote and I think Running On Air is quite thin and forgettable in this 26-strong lineup. Also, it didn’t help that Nathan was below par at last night’s jury rehearsal. 21.0 each way is available for last place at Ladbrokes.
Then comes the first bit of quality and one of only a few songs from the east capable of hitting top-10. Artsvik has been friendless on the markets since Tuesday’s first semi-final, but Fly With Me is eastern jury bait and Armenian/eastern diaspora should help secure a top-10. Iveta finished 7th last year thanks to stronger televote support. With Russia out, Armenia will be near top of the list for ex-USSR votes. Bet Armenia top-10 circa 1.6 on Betfair.
The hype around OG3NE since their first rehearsal was deafening, yet the excitement dissipated following Thursday’s semi-final outing. Light & Shadows underwhelmed, and despite the trio’s stellar vocals, it’s difficult to make a case for top-10, so the value has been to lay the Netherlands on Betfair, which may prove to be the case again today.
For Moldova, however, it’s conceivable they were top-3 in the semi-final, or at least top-3 of the televote. Hey Mamma is a distinctive visual package, as well as being an incredibly catchy song; and while Moldova tend to just fall short of top-10, they are well capable of landing it this time given there’s room for 2-3 ex-USSR nations. Bet Moldova top-10 in-play in the hope that odds drift after the first few jury scores.
Hungary are also capable of landing a top-10 finish with their diaspora-pleasing song and narrative. Joci Papai’s Origo is authentic and extremely well performed, but I think the rapping segment has held back their odds for top-10. It’s a bit borderline, so like Moldova, I recommend backing in-play value, as their big points will emerge from the televote, which is announced after the juries.
Occidentali’s Karma has sort of lost it’s edge. Gabbani’s PR machine has ground to a halt and Italy’s win chances have started to lengthen. The consensus was that Italy would always struggle to top the jury scores, and with Portugal and Bulgaria both assumed to have won their respective semis, momentum has started to shift along with a flurry of hotels being booked up in Lisbon and Sofia. Gabbani’s slot in the running order isn’t ideal, and having viewed two full rehearsals, it feels like Denmark and Portugal outclass the 34-year old. In fact, it’s almost as if Gabbani is Salvador’s warm-up act. I was Italy’s biggest fan before rehearsals, but Francesco has become increasingly erratic and inconsistent, so what was a 2nd-3rd with the juries, now feels more like 3rd-5th… Sergey territory. Sergey drifted to over 10s once a third of the jury scores had been announced last year; the same could conceivably happen this year. However, if you think Italy can still do it, it’s worth signing up to Coral and taking their promotional odds of 40/1 for an Italian victory.
Anja may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but she makes it so easy to stand out to juries with her gold, winner’s staging and virtuoso vocal. And as mentioned above, Denmark steals a lot of the limelight from Gabbani and leads nicely into the current market leader from Portugal. One can’t help but lose track of time when watching Salvador perform Amar Pelos Dois. It’s this year’s Common Linnets in terms of its delicate melody and enchanting staging. Surprisingly, Salvador is topping the iTunes downloads, as well as leading Google Trends metrics by a considerable margin. It seems Europe has connected with this kooky guy from Lisbon without the deteriorating health sympathy card being played, though it appears the ‘man with the broken heart‘ narrative is now catching on. If you have Portugal as a loser, you need to make it a winner!
Azerbaijan comes after a break, so Portugal has time to sink in and become the sofa talking point. The late first half running order slot doesn’t automatically suggest Dihaj did well in the semi-final; think of it as an inoffensive, credible entry that poses no risk to the market leaders. My position on an Azeri top-10 is fairly neutral: I can’t rule them in or out, but I’m leaning more towards them just missing out in 12th-15th.
The same could be said for Croatia and Australia, yet Croatia might be Graham Norton’s annual ‘dark horse’ tip, which usually sends the British-led betting markets into meltdown. It’ll be Croatia or Romania. The position here is to oppose top-5 and top-10 on Betfair should Jacques be tipped by Norton. Australia could be in serious danger of losing to the UK this year given the anonymous nature of Don’t Come Easy. Isaiah did well in front of the national juries last night, but being sandwiched between Croatia and Greece is far from ideal. The Australia vs UK match bet at BET365 might be the best way to oppose Australia.
Demy and her backing singers put on another good show last night, and while This Is Love was never considered to be a jury song, Greece at least didn’t embarrass themselves. This should still delight the Greek diaspora, but I feel Romania will suck any neutral, non-diaspora support their way. Greek bangers do have a habit of landing top-10 and the circa 6/1 odds do look generous, yet could get longer during the jury score announcement.
Spain did nothing to prevent a potential last place. The last section of the song continues to cause Manel problems and I can’t see any motivation for people to pick up their phones and vote.
Norway’s JOWST can’t stop smiling since qualification and he looks much more at ease. I was tempted to back last place, but can see Norway receiving enough jury love to swerve well clear of it. I see Norway placing 17th-22nd.
Lucie delivered a solid performance for the United Kingdom last night. The juries should recognise what is a stellar vocal and fantastic visual portrayal of the song from this experienced, West End singer. This was the year the BBC delegated the staging concept to the record company, and you can really tell the difference compared to previous years when it was a case of what was lying around in the BBC props department. What that means for the UK tonight is anyone’s guess. Is a top-10 on the cards, or are we kidding ourselves again? Either way, the UK’s song is good enough that punters could get overly excited during the show, causing a sudden price contraction and providing short-term trading opportunities. Ladbrokes are also offering a massive 25/1 for the UK to get ‘nil-points’ from at least one nation. #FreeMoney!
Hovig has been a revelation for Cyprus, improving what was quite a standard G:son composition to one of this year’s best visual performances. Nevertheless, I’m not sure that propels Cyprus to the dizzy heights of the top 10, but they should expect a better result than in 2015 and 2016.
Now for some each-way value in the outright from what looks like a very dangerous song from Romania. Yodel It won’t score as low with the juries as Poland did last year, and with a large diaspora-led televote topped up with neutral party-song support, there’s a chance Ilinca and Alex could land a podium finish. 40/1 each-way to 4-places is worth a punt at BET365. The more solid bet has to be top-10, which is available circa 1.5 on the high street and Betfair exchange. They could sing this song backwards and it would still land a top-10!
Germany are another contender for last place given the blandness of Levina’s song. Even with some slight jury support, it’s difficult to see this 50-shades of grey escaping beyond 23rd. Spain gets the nod for last place ahead of this, but we’re probably talking about 5-points dividing them.
Ukraine also looks very flat on screen. Even with regional support, it’ll be difficult for the hosts to land a top-10 this year. Somewhere around 15th would be deserving.
Blanche now wears more makeup to conceal her nerves, but the mask slips for the final chorus when she powers into the big ending segment, which she still stumbles over. It’s a million times better than last week, though the jury and televote for Belgium could still be hampered. Top-10 is likely. Top-4 is ambitious.
Sweden have been friendless on the markets since Robin’s semi-final outing. The presentation feels cold and clinical, though Robin should still attract enough jury and televote support to secure a respectable top-10 finish.
Kristian was always an interesting prospect for Bulgaria. The market has only just come around to the win potential of Beautiful Mess. It’s almost certain Bulgaria won semi-final 2 with Romania close behind. In tonight’s final, the great quandary is who the juries and televoters group around. Will they be enchanted by Portugal or will they be taken by Bulgaria’s commercial relevance and vocal ability. I tend to think Portugal will attract the most love from international juries, as warmth and heart tends to win over slick calculation. Having said that, 25th in the running order is ideal and with many European viewers tuning in for the first time, Bulgaria packs a huge punch just before the voting lines open. Straddling the Balkan and Eastern voting blocs could be crucial. As could any Russian influence with jurors, given the headlines that Moscow-born Kristian winning would generate.
France is an opportunity missed. The staging is like an advert for Google Maps and the dizzying backdrop swallows Alma’s delicate frame. The package is aimless and opposing top-10 looks to be the best play here.
So that’s the country-by-country rundown. Now for predicting who will lift the trophy later…
Based on Google metrics, iTunes take up and potential jury scores, I think Portugal is in pole position for the win. I expect Bulgaria to be close behind with a fading Italy also slotting into the top-4. The other country making the top-4 is wide open; maybe Belgium if their support doesn’t drop off too much. In my opinion, the real top-4 gatecrasher is Romania who will attract all sorts of Eurovision-party votes across Europe, on top of their vast diaspora. Armenia is also in play and 80/1 to 4-places is generous at BET365.
My book is fairly balanced, so I’m OK with any of the three market leaders taking the win, but my expectation is for Portugal to lift the trophy tonight.