The first Eurovision live show is here and it’s time to find our 10 qualifiers from this front-loaded semi-final.
So just for fun, here are my 10 qualifiers:
- Czech Republic
The semi-final top-3 should revolve around Cyprus, Czech Republic and Israel. Jurors have been known to reward contemporary music and all three of those songs tick the boxes. Nevertheless, there is room for something left-field to crash the top-3 party, and based on the reaction to Israel last night, maybe Netta could make way for another song?
Back to last night, I would be very surprised to not see Czech Republic in the jury top-2 based on the credible music-video quality performance. Mikolas was in the zone and gave his most engaging performance to date. Lie To Me really is jury bait, and combined with Mikolas’ green-room interview, the televote should be on board too. Even though my book would prefer a Cyprus win in this semi, it isn’t a done deal. So my one/two is Cyprus/Czech with Cyprus storming the televote but falling back slightly with the juries. The flicks and hairography moves on the off-beat make Cyprus the most memorable and Instagramable 3-minutes of the semi. 25/1 for Cyprus was advised here last week. A saver on Czech Republic might be advisable – 8/1 at Ladbrokes.
So who could push Netta outside of the top 3? Well it depends on the televote playing ball, but I’d say the juries may have Lithuania or Austria top-3 – the former has way more voting power.
Over in the bloc, it’s a tussle between Armenia, Azerbaijan and Belarus. I could conceivably see all three make it, but I think Aisel was the most forgettable during last night’s jury rehearsal and may struggle to make up the deficit with Azerbaijan’s traditionally weaker televote. In 2014 Dilara was 14-points clear of dropping out. A year later, Elnur was only 10-points clear. This year feels like Azerbaijan’s toughest challenge given their lack of allies and the bland, forgettable song. The Kontopoulos/Fokas dream-team may inspire support from Greece and Cyprus, which would be an easy 40+ points in the bank. With Belarus and one or two suspect televote/jury votes, Azerbaijan could get between 85-110 points, so they are right on the edge. As I’ve said repeatedly this year: “they always seem to do enough.”
Based on the numbers, Azerbaijan are good value at odds against. Currently 2.25 at Karamba.
Armenia, on the other hand, has a jury and diaspora friendly song, even though underrated in the markets. The British-centric Betfair market may push Armenia out to over evens in-play, so Sevak may represent a value bet. In my opinion, there’s enough quality to see Armenia through, but this isn’t a normal year.
Alekseev will be a tough sell for the British punters and could be another member of the bloc who drifts in-play. He has a large motivated fanbase, but are there enough of them in the countries who vote in this semi-final, and importantly, will Belarus be getting the 10s and 12s within their sphere of influence? Maybe not. I’ve agonised over this all morning and have reluctantly removed Alekseev from my qualifiers. I just can’t get the numbers to work.
Being brief now…
Belgium are out because other nations do it far better than them from later in the running order. Sennek may have scored middling points from a number of juries last night, but her weakness is on the televote. Lithuania and Estonia take the female ballad votes for me, as well as getting vocal nods from the juries. Both should attract fairly decent televotes too.
Finland and Switzerland are the surprise ‘floating around 10th place’ qualifiers I never thought I’d be considering. It’s a toss-up as to who gets it for me, so I’ve opted Finland based on the Eurovision fan viewership ratio skewing the televote in favour of Saara from Finland. Coincidentally, Saara is appearing on a live Eurovision Facebook chat at 4pm today. Even so, both of these are vulnerable if the Greek diaspora comes to Yianna’s rescue. Greece were refused a jury rehearsal re-run last night after their pyros engaged around 3o-seconds too early and ruined the visual appeal of the song. That could be crucial, unless the juries were asked to recognise the fault.
My final note is on Bulgaria. There has been a bot influencing the various Betfair markets since January. The money has now dried up due to the sheer volume of opposition to Bulgaria in all markets, and based on last night’s off-key and visually detracting performance in front of the juries, it would appear their qualification push is experiencing serious rigour-mortis. Many questions have been asked of the Bulgarian delegation over last year’s jury scores, as well as their alleged interference in the markets for PR. What concerns me is that if that sort of money is flowing into Betfair, how much is being used to acquire jury support? If Bulgaria make the cut, it will be interesting to see where the points come from. My early guess is a fairly high score from Azerbaijan.
That’s it from us for semi-final 1. Good luck with your bets and see you tomorrow for semi-final 2 rehearsals.
Don’t forget Ladbrokes are offering a £50 matched bet bonus on Eurovision. Get details here.