Eurovision 2011 Final Preview Part One – Top 10 and Specials

The jury rehearsal last night confirmed what a surprisingly strong year Eurovision 2011 has turned out to be after naysayers like myself had it marked down otherwise. A series of convincing performances – with a couple of significant exceptions – should certainly have left the juries with quite a quandary. Punters even more so.

Today I am splitting up my analysis and advice into two sections. I start with markets other than the outright winner one. As I wrote in one of my top tips articles last year, these have proved the most lucrative for me. Then I will watch this afternoon’s dress rehearsal and shortly afterwards post my thoughts on the outright winner market.

Let’s start with my bet of the week, which is to ‘lay’ Hungary in the Top 10 market – this means betting against that outcome. Having started doing this at 1.7 on Betfair early in the rehearsal period, I have been chasing this one ever since and have already amassed over £25,000 of liabilities.

In its studio version, ‘What About My Dreams’ was a disco-stomping fan favourite, on the back of which it got down to single figures in the outright win market. I always had some problems with the structure of the song, and fears that it could be effectively replicated on stage by Kati Wolf.

The rehearsal period only confirmed those suspicions, with practices displaying strained vocals and clumsy staging. To her credit, though, Kati pulled off a good enough performance in the semi-final – when advantageously positioned in the running order – to make it through to today’s Grand Final.

I can tell you that she was not so convincing in last night’s jury rehearsal. She started struggling from the first chorus onwards. Given that virtually every other entry I watched last night was either better performed or more contemporary, I am predicting a bottom 5 placing in a jury vote that doesn’t tend to go for this kind of song anyway.

Nor is ‘What About My Dreams’ well drawn any more. At number 5, it is at least the first sign of a disco beat in the contest, but that plus is outweighed by the minus of being immediately followed by Jedward, Sweden and Estonia – three upbeat pop songs all hugely more contemporary and interesting. Hungary is very quickly forgotten.

Hungary has few natural voting allies, which is why it has scored a grand total of 22 points in total with its last two entries, so I can’t envisage any kind of decent televote score for it either. Thus I will be gobsmacked – and considerably poorer – if it manages a Top 10 placing.

I must admit, I have rather cornered the market on Hungary already. The best price available to lay on Betfair is 3.85 at the time of writing, while Kati is 2/7 on Victor Chandler’s “not to finish in the top 10” market. Still, I think her chance of a Top 10 finish remains significantly lower than even these prices suggest.

There are other ways of betting against Kati’s chances. I have been laying Hungary in the Top 4 and Top 5 markets on Betfair, and there is also an opportunity on Betfair to bet on its finishing position, the favoured option (currently at 1.35) being 11th and below.

You can also back Bosnia to beat Hungary in a match bet, and this is another confident selection – currently 4/9 with bet365 and 1.43 with Betfair. Dino Merlin may well be hindered by the cursed draw of number 2 (from which no one has ever won the contest), but as Balkan music royalty, he is guaranteed to pick up a certain amount of points from neighbours and diaspora that I cannot imagine Kati managing.

So, having recommended laying the most over-rated song in the betting markets, albeit now at a skinny price, it’s time to turn my attention to the most under-rated entry that we can back to finish in the Top 10 – and at least here I am able to recommend a bet at juicier odds than the ones still available on Kati Wolf. I had my ‘Eureka!’ moment on this during the jury rehearsal last night, which is appropriate, because the country in question is Greece.

Their entry, ‘Watch My Dance’, received plenty of initial criticism – including from me – for its original and what seemed rather awkward mixture of rap and zeibekiko (a form of Greek folk dance and the rhythm that accompanies it). It was very poorly staged in the national final and with far from polished vocals (the rap parts came in for particular scorn), many reckoned this would be the first time the country failed to qualify from the semi-finals.

Once it had been given the plum draw in the semi, last of 19 in the first heat, it was felt that it would have to rely on this and Greece’s four voting allies to be enough to see it through to the grand final. Yet it emerged as one of the revelations of the rehearsals. Loukas Yiorkas is telegenic, his vocals have been outstanding, and the staging has been arguably the most effective of any song apart from Finland. It became a definite qualifier on its own merits and I ended up with a significant five-figure sum on it doing so at short odds.

An early draw of 9 for the grand final didn’t seem to bode so well, especially being so close to firm favourite, French tenor Amaury Vassili, at 11. As it had appeared to benefit so much from being the climax of Tuesday’s night heat, I rather dismissed its chances of a respectable finish once it was put in the first half of the Saturday show.

But this all changed with the addition of the second semi-finalists to the running order. Now Loukas and the male angst of ‘Watch My Dance’ is surrounded by bubblegum pop. What’s more, there isn’t anything else like it in the final – the other ethnic number, Bosnia’s ‘Love In Rewind’, being all happy-clappy.

So, in last night’s jury rehearsal, it provided a wonderfully brooding, dramatic interlude to the highly manufactured stuff around it, coming in between Estonia’s (admittedly highly effective) Cartoon Network staging and Russia’s (less successful) MTV video-style performance. Next to Getter Jaani and Alexey Vorobyov, Loukas’s vocals shone, and even Stereo Mike’s rapping seemed slightly less of a problem and more of a prelude.

‘Watch My Dance’ is going to score extremely well in its own region. Although it’s not something that many with more ‘western’ pop tastes are going to appreciate, there will also be plenty of televote points from those countries in western Europe with relatively influential migrant populations in Eurovision terms.

More so than usual, in fact, because the other nations with which Greece competes in this area, Turkey and Armenia, failed to qualify for tonight’s final. For example, in countries like Belgium and Netherlands the traditional eight points to Greece from the public televote, behind Turkey and Armenia, becomes a potential 12.

‘Watch My Dance’ doesn’t have to do more than impress its constituency and be respected by juries for a Top 10 finish. I’ve already argued it does the former. Therefore, I think ‘Watch My Dance’ may not be too far off the televote scores Greece has received in the last two years (152 for ‘Opa’ in 2010 and 151 for ‘This Is Our Night’ in 2009).

And as I wrote in my original article on the song, it’s arguably (though we can only speculate) going to be more jury-friendly than either of those entries under the 50-50 system. So there’s a good argument for thinking Greece can match those two overall results – eighth in 2010 and seventh in 2009 – especially without other top ten perennials Turkey and Armenia.

And what price can you get on a Top 10 finish – something Greece has managed every year from 2004 onwards? 11-4 with Victor Chandler is currently best, though I managed to get on at 10-3 following my Eureka moment.

There is a more speculative and better-priced way of following this train of thought. Yesterday, Sofabet commenter Vytas pointed out that Bet365 were running a handicap market, giving each country a head start of a certain amount of points over favourite France. They went 18/1 each of the runners if you could work out which nation could add enough points to the starting amount allotted.

Greece has been given 175 points. Only no-hopers Moldova, Lithuania and Spain – as well as Romania, on whom I suggest you have a saver at 12/1 – have been given more. I’ve taken the 18/1 offered on Greece in this interesting market, and 14/1 is still available at the time of going to press.

I have concentrated on Hungary and Greece because the draw and other variables have made life more difficult otherwise in the Top 10 market. Finland, Bosnia and Denmark would all have been strong fancies to achieve this landmark, but now have to overcome numbers 1, 2 and 3 in the running order.

That won’t matter to Dino Merlin’s Balkan fans around Europe, but I’d rather take the more certain outcome at similar odds that Bosnia will beat Hungary, than get stuck into it from that draw in the Top 10 market.

Otherwise, Russia and Serbia have a case for Top 10 status, based on the strength of their voting blocs alone. It’s a shame then that Alexeyev Vorobyov and Nina both put up below-par vocal performances in the jury rehearsal, and I’m not so keen on getting stuck into them for that reason.

Georgia and the Ukraine have great draws and voting allies. They will be knocking at the door, but again, I don’t have the strength of feeling here that I can summon up for Hungary and Greece.

Same too with Austria and Slovenia despite their neutral support and good slots in the running order at numbers 18 and 20. I wouldn’t put anyone off backing Austria’s Nadine Beiler for a strong finish, but at 6-4 the value has dried up for a friendless nation in Eurovision terms. Slovenia is similarly lacking in voting allies.

I would be very inclined to lay against Iceland’s plodding effort ‘Coming Home’ but for my fears that a backstory involving the death of its songwriter will garner a sympathy vote, especially coming near the end of the show at number 21.

Based on a messy performance in last night’s jury rehearsal, there’s also an argument for laying the United Kingdom for a Top 10 finish, but if Blue perform as well as their best rehearsal tonight, they will be receiving plenty of televotes.

And of course, there’s also plenty of logic in backing against Ireland’s Jedward too, at current very short prices. But caught in the Eurovision bubble here in Dusseldorf, it’s hard for me to envisage what will actually happen to ‘Lipstick’ on the night.

Thankfully, the cowardly option of leaving alone is always a valid one for any gambler. I’d rather keep it simple and stick to what I think I know. And I feel on more comfortable ground laying Hungary and backing Greece for a Top 10 finish.

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30 comments to Eurovision 2011 Final Preview Part One – Top 10 and Specials

  • David

    Daniel, here’s a tip in return:

    Greece over 1,5 maximums @1,83 with William Hill. Appears to have pretty high limits as well (at least over £400).

    Cyprus is guaranteed of course, and you have already made the argument for why other might nudge it up to 12 (lack of other powerhouses).

    • Daniel

      Thanks David, I’ve just taken it. With the Cyprus douze sewn up (Loukas is Greek-Cypriot), one should be able to at least rely on Albania or Bulgaria.

  • Karas

    Great analysis Daniel. Just a question. Are there any betting sites that offer multiples on head to head bets? Thank you

  • peter

    Great logic re Greece Daniel. I’ve followed you in. I think a case can be made for Spain Top 10 because of the draw and surrounding songs. Big price. Am I throwing my money away? Any thoughts on who will finish last? Bookies seem to have it right with Lithuania but it’s short and Switzerland at 12’s appeals more because of the price draw and TV break. Thoughts please?

    • Daniel

      Hi Peter, I’m personally confident that Spain is not threatening the left-side of the scoreboard, but there are renowned judges here in Dusseldorf who disagree with me. The last place market is always fun but a bit of a lottery. I actually considered tipping Switzerland. It gets totally lost in the 13 slot after the ad break, and has fewer friends than Lithuania, Moldova and Spain – other entries at the top of this market.

      • David

        You might want to consider match bets against Switzerland as an option. At the time of my betting (earlier today), Sportingbet offered odds 1,66 on Romania beating Switzerland (low limits though), and Coralbet offered 1,83 on Italy beating Switzerland (pretty high limits).

  • David

    Overall, it’s really reassuring to find me in sync with your thoughts! Laying Hungary for top10 is my single biggest bet tonight (avg odds around 2.00), and I have some lays there for top5 and winner as well. After being fooled by Sweden crushing web polls in 2008, I promised myself to go with my own instinct in times of conflict with the fan polls. This song, I feel, is as much a “fan song” as it gets – quite on par with “Hero” from 2008. Ergo it’s overvalued (or was).

    As for Greece, I hade started nibbling it for top10 but was unable to get much volume through – now I understand why 🙂 Your article, however, boosted my confidence in that one and I doubled by liablility via odds 3.75 with Coralbet.

    I must say I’m a bit scared or Ireland, as I have a very big liability on the winner market, and a good-sized one on top10 as well. Logic states it’s with small chances of winning, but I’m worried about my top10 lay.

  • Tim

    Great article as always. I’ve taken Greece for a top 10 finish at 13/5. It’s a bit worrying what you say about United Kingdom’s jury performance, as I placed them each way this morning. Now I’m thinking I should have gone for Azerbaijan.

  • Pete Sears

    Greece over 1.5 maximums down to 4/6 – is this a bit skinny now? Totally buy the rationale and already on Greece Top 10 with VC. Great articles as always.

  • fiveleaves

    I’ve been taking advantage of your big lay of Hungary Dan.
    I’ve also always had major reservations about her ability to sing this song live.
    They were confirmed with the 1st couple of pre semi rehearsals, but I thought, altho far from perfect, her semi final perfromance was pretty decent.
    Having listened to both her afternoon final rehearsal and the more important jury rehearsal she sounded to my ears on fine form to my ears. The best she’s ever sounded.
    Admittedly those ears were listening to it being broadcast on a webcam positioned in the press centre. So not the best. But you do seem to be out of line with every other blogger I’ve read who thought she was at her best last night.
    It was also the only song to receive a loud round of apllause in the press room during the recap.
    Getting on for 3/1 looks way too big to me for top 10.

    My other big play in the top 10 is Georgia. Plum draw, niche appeal and another great vocal from Sophio.
    I’ve laid off for a certain profit now having backed before the semi @ an average of 9 ish, but have held onto most of my green.

    Also had a small back of Switzerland @ 9 as it’s comes as a light relief after a run of more ‘worthy’ songs.

    GL with to you and everyone on their bets tonight and wd on your excellent work throughout.

    • Daniel

      Kati wasn’t terrible last night, but neither was she convincing in a way that the song requires. I really do think it was one of her weaker rehearsals (though not as bad as the first one). Don’t take too much heed of what the Eurovision fanboys clap to in the press centre, which is virtually deserted for the evening rehearsals anyway. And finally, it is a shocking draw for her. Jedward come on and if she isn’t forgotten then, by the time they’ve been followed up by a very strong set of largely uptempo songs, I’m afraid she is.

  • peter

    Thanks Daniel. I agree that the last place is a lottery but have invested a little on Switzerland in the hope that they get “lost”
    The biggest frustration for me this year has been the Azeri womans’ tuning. If she could sing as well as him I really think it would have had a strong chance of winning the whole thing, But everytime they do the song I hold my breath!
    Good luck

  • fiveleaves

    I would just add Hungary was one of the few songs that appeared in a number of the western european charts after the semi performance.
    So clearly many viewers weren’t put off by her far from perfect vocal.

    • Daniel

      Hi fiveleaves, you are right, though I will make three points in return: it is a type of song that has some appeal in western Europe (especially among committed Eurovision fans!) but is of far less interest outside this area; her semi-final performance was much better than what the juries saw last night; and I still think it’s a much better song in studio than it comes across on stage. Good luck tonight.

      • fiveleaves

        I agree it’s a much better song in the studio and the staging and her dress aren’t great either.

        If she could produce a studio type performance, with good staging and a mid to late draw, then I’d have it as favourite to win.

        Clearly none of those have happened, but the juries and the public will be unaware of the studio version and will just be judging it on what they hear on the night.

        Most bloggers seem to think she sang it well last night, as I did on my poor feed.
        It’s one of the best songs, so I’m happy to take the bigger prices available now for top 10 and even to win.

        Lena didn’t put in a studio quality vocal at any stage last year.

        Less important with a song like Salellite, but I do feel we can all over analyse and slate a vocal for some very minor flaws and expect everyone to put in a vocal performance like Austria’s Nadine.

        I think the same is true when it comes to those who constantly slate the Axeri female singer.
        These are many of the same people who slated the Danish vocals last year.

  • annie

    Hungary was a great pre-rehearsal favorite of mine, and I was terribly disapointed with the staging and kati’s styling. plus the way the draw ended up, it’s possibly the worst case scenario. so I agree it is possibly slipping in the second half of the scoreboard. this in normal circumastances… but my hungarian friend tells me the national campaign for kati and the song is incredible, almost aggresive. hungarians living across europe are being mobilised to vote by hungarian tv-stations with international broadcast, she has very strong media coverage and that they are supporting kati and what about my dreams as a question of national pride, regardless of the performance on the night. do you think sufficient hype can be created to boost her chances for a decent placement?

    • Daniel

      Hi Annie, given that I sit next to two lovely Hungarian press people here in Dusseldorf, I am very aware of the pride they have taken in Kati’s participation, qualification and their hopes for tonight. I don’t see an up-till-now dormant Hungarian diaspora, of whose numbers I have no idea, having an impact, but you never know. I have to say that very few people here think Hungary that was even top 3 in its semi-final even from that decent draw, so how it could manage top 10 in this much stronger field with a terrible draw is going to be a very tough challenge.

  • Rob

    Hi Dan,
    Very interesting stance on Hungary. I’ve been backing it at over 3 on value grounds as all the reports I read said she did a terrific job with it last night. On my stats, Hungary is halfway on the friends voting, which is acceptable, and given its popularity among ESC fans around Europe my theory was it will be well supported on the televote. Also, compared to the candyfloss pop that follows Kati, my thinking was it will stand out as a song of quality. But this is only one betting position among 100 or more, so if I’m wrong on this, and you’re right, well done in advance and I’ll hope the other 99 come in 🙂

    • Daniel

      Hi Rob, I think you need to be careful how you interpret the stats on Hungary’s ‘friendly’ votes. Two of their last four songs (in 2005 and 2007) have scored very well becuase they were great songs. Thus all those countries which have only been participating in the contest since then (of which there are plenty) are going to seem like they have favoured Hungary as a nation, whereas all they were doing was voting for two good songs. In reality, Hungary has no real Eurovision friends at all, which is why ‘Candlelight’, rated as good enough to qualify by many in 2008, got only six points in total. Where were its friends then?

  • Vytas

    Hi Daniel,
    What do you think about Lithuania? Does it has any chances to score for example 40 or 50 points? Do you think juries like it yesterday?

    • Daniel

      Hi Vytas, whilst it was very well performed yesterday, I fear juries had such a strong choice of songs that ‘C’est Ma Vie’ will get left behind. I think you will be relying on friendly televotes from neighbours and Lithuanians in places like the UK and Ireland alone. I don’t think that is enough for 40-50 points, unfortunately.

  • Boki

    Hi Dan,
    I’m a new reader since couple days ago and I’m impressed by the articles. You didn’t mention Germany chances fot top10 today, any thoughts ?

  • Duncan

    Daniel I’m curious of your feelings about France since it is the hot favourite.

    Greece was a personal fancy of mine for the reason that he can sing, wasnt to western tastes and Armenia Turkey Albania Bulgaria FYROM and Cyprus all got knocked out

    I don’t like Iceland, but there doesnt seem to be a good way to oppose it. If mentioned that the songwriter has died is it going to register with televoters? It would float totally over my head.

  • Adam

    Some stats for u all…

    Most viewed finalists on the eurovision channel by 13 May:

    1 Azerbaijan 1,022,850

    2 Hungary 633,866

    3 France  622,819

    4 UK 460,142

    5 Russia 445,139

    6 Ireland 432,178

    7 Germany 429,726

    8 Estonia 419,075

    9 Sweden 414,396

  • Adam

    Just taken the Over 1,5 maximums for Greece at 8/11 on Bet365. Not since 2003 has Greece failed to get at least 2 maximums. Now have big plays on Greece top ten and Over 1,5 maximums…either gonna be a great or horrific night for me!

  • EuroVisionWinner

    Here’s a good one for you on Betfair:

    You can get odds of 2.61/1 for Spain to place better than Italy. Now Italy do have the novelty factor for them in that they have been away for so long BUT…

    1) Italy are playing straight after France
    2) Italy’s song is a little forgettable
    3) Spain have a catchy song
    4) They are towards the end of the play order

    I have bet on Spain to do better than Italy.

  • Richard

    Excellent analysis.

    What has the reaction to Kseniya Simonova appearance alongside Mika Newton?? 200/1 looks too big on BETFAIR

    • Daniel

      Hi Richard, this is another shock scenario a bit like the Icelandic one. I suppose enough people could think, “wow, I want to see the sand thing again,” just as they might wonder, “it’s so sad about the Icelandic songwriter, let’s vote for that”. Jaded, cynical hacks in the press centre such as myself are not so convinced. 🙂

  • andre

    Hi Daniel, only just discovered your website and absolutely love it. Always reassuring to find others as crazy as myself!! Do you spread bet at all? If what you say about Greece is true the downside on sportingindex’s
    performance figures is pretty low and the upside high. Best wishes

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