Eurovision bloggers and pundits are scared of the second semi-final. With relative strength in depth, it is being talked of as ‘difficult’ or a ‘bloodbath’. There are doubts about some favourites, glimmers of hope for some outsiders.
Two facts help me make sense of it. Firstly, with four songs standing little chance, there are only 13 songs seriously in the running for the ten positions in Saturday’s final. My initial article on qualification odds for this semi reckoned these no-hopers were Slovenia, Netherlands and Switzerland. Following rehearsals, I would add Bulgaria to that list.
Therefore, the ‘bloodbath’ only refers to a couple of passable performances that are not going through to the final. To work out which ones may miss out, we should consider my second point – the significant voting blocs in action for this semi-final.
Turkey benefits most from this, and in my opinion is certain to go through. If I can get a six-figure sum on them qualifying, even at puny odds, I will do. They remain the best bet to win this semi, though now only half the price of the 14/1 we tipped them at in an earlier article.
Voting-wise, what goes for Turkey, follows for Azerbaijan, whilst Armenia’s six good televoting friends and strong song should see it easily through as well. The fourth participant from the Caucasus, Georgia, is a much bigger price at around 1.4 on Betfair to qualify.
Many see it as a borderline case with an overly fussy choreography detracting from the song. However, there are bigger arguments in its favour, not least of which it’s a fine ballad sung by a pretty young woman with a great place in the running order. I am backing it heavily to qualify.
Most importantly, it can rely on seven voting allies in this heat. Based purely on scores in the final given to its last entry in 2008, the vastly inferior song ‘Peace Will Come’, it should get at least 60 points in the televote from these countries alone. That would be enough to qualify in itself.
Admittedly, juries are now part of the equation, but my opinion is that ‘Shine’ is a jury-friendly song. Outside the Caucasus and former USSR, it’s not getting zeros from the rest of Europe either. Thanks to a Scandinavian songwriting team, it has appeal across the board.
Talking of Scandinavia, Sweden has been the revelation of rehearsals, even before they introduced their gimmick. Tonight the audience will shine light sticks during Anna Bergandahl’s song, and we could find ourselves with an Olsen Brothers moment on our hands (explained here).
Of the rest, Romania and Israel should capture their own niche, leaving three places up for grabs between Croatia, Ireland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Cyprus and Denmark.
It’s no coincidence that these countries cannot rely on so many friendly votes tonight as some of their rivals. Given the strength of the opposition, that is going to make it a scrap for each of them.