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Eurovision 2018: Semi-Final 1 Preview

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:

  • Azerbaijan
  • Armenia
  • Austria
  • Czech Republic
  • Cyprus
  • Estonia
  • Ireland
  • Israel
  • Finland
  • Lithuania

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.

About Gavster

Owner & Chief Editor   I’m a qualified designer and the official geek in the crew, dedicating most of my free time to keeping the ESCtips show on the road. My family routes allow me to support the UK, Ireland and Italy.

41 comments

  1. Azerbaijan
    Czech Republic
    Lithuania
    Israel
    Estonia
    Bulgaria
    Austria
    Greece
    Switzerland
    Cyprus

  2. Bulgaria still at it I think- at least to a certain extent, surely it would be higher than it is even now- must be costing a fortune. Anyway, my prediction:

    Cyprus
    Czech Rep
    Estonia
    Israel
    Bulgaria
    Austria
    Greece
    Lithuania
    Armenia
    Azerbaijan
    ————-

    Switzerland, Belgium, Finland, Belarus all could too, don’t see the others getting enough personally.

  3. Azerbaijan
    Austria
    Greece
    Cyprus
    Finland
    Estonia
    Bulgaria
    Isreal
    Belgium
    Czech

    I hope to get at least 8/10 in a so hard to predict semifinal

  4. My 10, in no particular order:

    Cyprus
    Czech
    Israel
    Estonia
    Bulgaria
    Austria
    Lithuania
    Belarus
    Albania
    Armenia

    Have Ireland just missing out, but a value play at 4/1 nonetheless.

    Also, making Czech my biggest green in the outright. Overshadowed during rehearsals (partly due to injury) but it remains a slick, all round package that will appeal to juries and casual televoters alike.

  5. my 10 in the order they run

    Azebaijan
    Albania
    Czech Rep
    Lithuania
    Israel
    Estonia
    Austria
    Greece
    Armenia
    Cyprus

    my value bet is Lithuania for a Top 5 finish which i took this morning at 5.5 – doubt those odds will be available now.

  6. Just for fun:
    Cyprus
    Israel
    Bulgaria
    Czech
    Austria
    Belgium
    Ireland
    Estonia
    Switzerland

    Mostly hoping for a Ireland shock 🙂

  7. My qualifiers:
    Azerbaijan
    Belgium
    Czech Republic
    Lithuania
    Israel
    Bulgaria
    Austria
    Greece
    Armenia
    Cyprus

  8. My Q’s:
    Czech Republic
    Lithuania
    Israel
    Belarus
    Estonia
    Bulgaria
    Austria
    Finland
    Ireland
    Cyprus

    Really struggled choosing between Azerbaijan/Finland. With these two entries I can see them pulling in similar jury scores so I believe the televote will be the decider. I am slightly leaning towards Finland at the moment, due to the better running order and Saraa’s profile in UK/Ireland.

    Can’t see many votes for Greece outside of the diaspora, and with their reportedly weak jury rehearsal I wouldn’t be surprised to see them just miss out. Pretty much same goes for Armenia, I just don’t see a large market for this. Could be completely wrong though, countries who can rely on strength of diaspora are always hard to discount.

    I genuinely have no idea. Could literally be any of them.

    • 9/10, very happy with that prediction! Not surprised to see the eastern wipeout, although Belarus not making it was surprising. Delighted for Finland, Albania and Ireland especially! Looked liked all the odds were against them but still made it.

  9. Here we go
    Cyprus wins semi-final
    My 10 qualifiers. I’m confident of the first 4 not the rest.
    Czech Republic
    Cyprus
    Estonia
    Israel
    Greece
    Azerbaijan
    Armenia
    Lithuania
    Bulgaria
    Austria
    Can’t rule out Greece with the amount of friends in this semi and Armenia like wise. The only reason I have both in.

  10. This is a very tough semi to call:

    4 contenders for the win – Czech, Israel, Cyprus, Estonia
    4 probable qualifiers – Lithuania, Bulgaria, Armenia, Greece (this was never going to do well with the juries anyway)
    7 possible qualifiers contending for two places – Azerbaijan, Belarus, Croatia, Austria, Switzerland, Finland, Ireland
    4 unlikely to qualify – Iceland, Belgium, Albania, FYROM

    On the basis of no more than 5 likely to qualify from the front half – I don’t think Azerbaijan or Belarus will make it. (In such a high quality semi, slot 1 is a hard slot to qualify from with only an okay entry. The juries will have marked Belarus down) Of the remainder, despite good staging, Ireland’s song may let it down. That leaves Austria, Switzerland, Croatia and Finland. I’ve always had a sneaking feeling that the juries will go big on Switzerland, so despite a likely low televote this gets it over the line. Out of the remainder, I’ve gone for Finland on the basis that there is not a lot of love for Saara in forums such as this one and that her song and (probably) her performance is stronger than it has generally been given credit for.

  11. My 10:
    CYPRUS
    ISRAEL
    CZECK REPUBLIC
    ESTONIA
    BULGARIA
    AUSTRIA
    GREECE
    ALBANIA
    IRELAND
    ARMENIA

    Enjoy everyone 🙂

  12. I see Cyprus is the latest entry that the markets are getting over-excited about. Ideal for the semi-final pimp slot and in the final it could do a Poli Genova and come top 5, but a likely outright winner? This not the type of song that juries normally get excited about and there are 4 or 5 other countries competing for the big televotes. I expect after Wednesday or Thursday, we’ll see Norway take its turn as market favourite.

  13. Good luck all and enjoy!

    My Semi 1 Qualifiers are:
    Czech Republic
    Lithuania
    Israel
    Belarus
    Estonia
    Bulgaria
    Austria
    Greece
    Ireland
    Cyprus

  14. Good luck everyone and enjoy the best semi iv probably ever seen.
    Big shout out to Gav for all his usual hard work,made even harder by having to put up with fans on twitter etc who dont understand what trading an event like ESC is about.They seem unable to change their minds on new evidence,i guess thats the difference between everyone on here and the ESC bubble.I do enjoy a laugh reading some of them Gav.
    I really really hope Lith shine tonight.I just love a perfect piano ballad and have them at big prices,that and Cyprus ew are my only real bets on this tonight.Hope to see a few big reds on the outright go out though.

  15. I guessed 8 out of 10. Ireland was greatly supported by the audience, it is not surprising that they qualified. Albania? Meh

    In my opinion, definitely the strongest are Cyprus and Lithuania.

    Estonia was boring. This is more boring than on the national selection.
    Belgium is just awful. Bulgaria is not good. Croatia had a nervous tic, I do not know why she kept jerking all the time.

    Excerpts from Portugal and Spain looked very good !!

  16. I got NINE out of 10. Changed my mind on Austria and put them through. I think Lithuania could win this!

    • Not from a 1st half draw amongst the other ballads. Not strong enough. Her voice is so off putting as well, I find it really annoying. Nice images that tug at the heartstrings, though.

  17. Couple of thoughts so far:

    I think Cyprus won the semi, the ESC tracker stats would support this.
    Czech Rep seems to be more a Jury song, I think it may have not gathered the support on the televote side, hence it’s drift. May struggle to stand out in 2nd half with all the uptempo songs.
    Consequently I think Ireland have a great chance to stand out in the 2nd half, Lithuania also drawing 1st half will help this.

  18. For anyone following esctracker, Lie To Me is charting in around 10 countries (or atleast 10 i can see, ive not checked them all) but esctracker isnt picking it up.

  19. CYPUS: Showlad’s view. Hi all just giving my take on Cyprus. I will make a profit on my book if they win, so hopefully my view will be balanced and helpful to all.
    Eleni has taken a very average ethno pop tune and brought an amazing energy and star presence to Lisbon tramsforming the song. However, I fear we are at risk of getting lost in the ESC fan bubble demographic who go wild for her particualr fire.
    I had a house full of non-ESC fans who thought it good and catchy but weak vocally and certainly no winnner and much preferred Israel and Lithuania.
    Juries I fear will big time penalise – let’s not pretend otherwise – a paper thin vocal and not much of a great song and a trashy element that many will find a turn off. Removing ourselves from the bubble I think in the ‘uptempo pop song’ category juries will find Netta much vocally stronger and gravitate to her authentic skills rather than much of the ‘dispensable’ aspects of Cyprus. Cyprus will be Top 5 but it ain’t winning unless it goes tits up for the other contenders. I think Lithuania may well have edged the semi.
    The other red herring is Itunes and other mediums (all can be viewed on http://esctracker.com ) and Cyprus’ catchy pop number is more akin to doing well here rather than with a broad section of family viewers and the juries. But take away Greece and Cyprus in her itunes catchment and Eleni given her pimp closing slot isn’t for me showing the profile at all even there of a winner.
    I hope I can help us and since 2003 have only been blindsided by the (many believe rigged) Az win. I have been very fortunate to have had some huge 3 figure odds wins.
    I will post up my winners take when the crucial GF running order is released. For now though I think Nor, Fra and Lit are very strong (Isr in the mix but the crazy comedy factor has been played too strong I feel to win) but I have a funny feeling we may be going to Berlin for Eurovision 2019. Michael is the HUGE dark horse under the radar. The staging is the most impactful for me of all the songs this year. He is totally current, can appeal to all viewers and is 100% jury bait and he has the vital ‘X’ factor that I felt I was missing from my book as I mused over a cuppa the other morning – as this guy and his song and the graphics are going to have Joe Public reaching for the Kleenex 😉

    • Showlad you say Cyprus is a product of the bubble, partly true. But then you have Norway as one of your winners. Don’t you see Norway is a pure product of the bubble and is nothing outside it? They both fish in the uptempo dance pond and Cyprus will come higher than Norway.

      • We’re talking about the Final here oc. I dare say Norway will do well in SF2 as it’s so weak. I see the final T10 being dominated by SF1 and one or two auto-qualifiers.

      • Hi Henry. Alexander is the best performer and the biggest pro in the entire show hands down. Like Eleni (though way more polished and savvy he has taken a lacklustre number and translated into a potential winner). The song is irritatingly catchy and totally accessible. Norway are BIG time in the running.

        • Well you seem to be in a majority on here. I like all that surrounds him on the table, especially Israel and France, but I don’t think the public will buy somebody writing “That’s How You Write A Song” and then coming up with that rubbish. Let’s see what happens Saturday.

  20. 8/10 for me as well, but Ireland was a close call, me opting to go for Switzerland at the last moment. I’m very happy with Albania, altough I didn’t see it coming. He totally deserves it.
    I suggested that Greece, Belgium and Armenia were at big risk but I was surprised to see them all failing.

    I believe Cyprus and Lithuania were the top 2, followed by Israel, Czech R. and Austria.
    I’m happy that I made some small profits as well, putting some early bets on Belgium and Greece NQ. Now, I hope that Cyprus has won the semi to allow me multiply my gains!!

  21. Gav, the road to victory is not certain for Rybak either. He has to win the semi from slot 1… How difficult is that!?

    Has anyone ever won the semi or final from slot 1 in eurovision history?

    The fear is that if he doesn’t do well in the semi, he’ll get nerfed by the producers…

    • Why does he have to win the semi? Jamala did not and won the entire thing. Not to compare the two acts, but there is a precedent.

    • Norway’s Win Win Grand Final draw: Norway are on to a VERY good thing for backers now, as if they draw 1st half tonight they are amongst a sea of ballads and it’s a win situation. If they draw 2nd half later draw again another win sitaution for them 🙂 Looking increasingly good for Alexander’s chances of a 2nd victory. Majorly in the mix now as the frame gets finalised for the GF.

    • Mikey… Singing first isn’t great but it can be overcome. UK and Sweden won 1976 and 1984 contests from there… Rybak is in a very weak semi and will be in the top two. From there he will go to final and be allocated a 9 to 13 slot or 17 to 21 most likely depending on which half he draws. He’s sitting pretty at the moment, as long as he is getting over his about of flu!

  22. Ahhh I see… Thanks for the heads up guys… Im feeling more confident now 🙂

  23. Germany: this escnation live blog review from today exquisitely sums up how I feel about the German song:
    “Germany – the staging for this is incredible! The screen starts with the words of the lyrics in animation, then childhood stills of him and his Dad (I think). His vocals are superb, he’s connecting with the camera for every second of this and there are very few “wasted” wide shots. The staging/shooting/lighting/sound of this are as close to perfect as I could imagine, and can see this lapping up votes from everywhere. How this isn’t in contention for a win in the odds is beyond me.”

  24. Semi 2. Russia 2.36 to qualify and Australia 1.38 not to qualify on Betfair. Apparently she was dire in the jury final.

  25. GERMANY odds dropping all across the board! Here is a (poor quality) fan video from the arena last night https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cq3dUxW5kZA Sound goes up and down lol but crucially we can see the staging is amazing and YES I get the starkness and effectiveness of the staging vibes (including the road graphics) of Calm After The Storm.
    Apart from a terrible positioning (which hopefully won’t happen) Showlad is calling it for a Germany win.
    Jury bait – tick. Current and modern with hit potential – tick. Mass public appeal -tick. ‘X’ factor moment (all will be in tears) – tick. Great vocals – tick.
    Watch this go single figures by Saturday 😉 🙂

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