After this morning’s look at the top ten and specials markets, where I do the vast majority of my own punting, it’s time to address the headline question of the night – who will win Eurovision 2011?
I have to admit that I have already made a profit on the outright win market for Eurovision tonight and I’m keeping hold of it. I got a couple of quid at 200/1 on France’s ‘Sognu’ just after the song was released, and added to it at a much shorter 7/2 after the first visual run-through here in Dusseldorf. It was always my plan to hedge those bets by ‘laying’ (betting against) Amaury Vassili, and I did so at under 7/4 yesterday.
The fact that I’ve hedged should tell you that I’m not at all confident about whether or not Amaury will justify France’s position as hot favourite to take the prize – but nonetheless, here’s my take on it.
Right from when Amaury’s song was first released, and I wrote about my early impressions, the big reason for punters to scratch their heads has been that we have no precedent for how well a classical crossover piece like ‘Sognu’ will go down with Eurovision televoters. Classical crossover is a niche, albeit one with a market in both eastern and western Europe.
I still don’t have an answer, and now we have another reason to scratch our heads – all the other main contenders have accumulated question marks against them, not least the way they have been put into the running order.
Many of my early doubts about ‘Sognu’ have, however, dissipated over rehearsals fortnight. What seemed like an unfavourably early draw (11 of 25) now looks much less of a problem, as the places drawn by the second semi-final qualifiers mean it will provide viewers with a striking contrast after a clutch of uptempo numbers.
I still have issues with the construction of the song – it feels rather crammed into its three minutes – but it turns out that as well as an amazing voice, Amaury Vassili brings a passionate stage presence, and there is also a stunning backdrop of clouds turning into dawn. The overall impression is rather static, but there are goosebump-y moments.
And then there is a killer camera shot, panning back on the penultimate big note, which is repeated in the reprise. All in all, I think it will be enough – and while I won’t be going in again at current odds, France is my tip for the win.
The one nation I could see providing a bigger moment is Azerbaijan, when the fiery rain starts falling for the final part of ‘Running Scared’. Ell and Nikki (they have reverted to their Anglicised names) tick every box with their song. It has the draw, the voting allies, a jury-friendly song and a pan-European appeal.
Nikki is never going to provide strong vocals, but I have to admit that she was serviceable enough in last night’s jury rehearsal. So what is missing? It’s hard to say, but the feeling has persisted since its first rehearsal that there’s a certain intangible something lacking. I’m just not ‘feeling’ it in the way that I do with France.
For that reason I have Azerbaijan slated for the runner-up slot. But since the draw for the final left them all alone of the main contenders in the latter part of the draw, their price has understandably shortened considerably. So can we find an each-way selection at more rewarding odds? I’m going for Austria, currently top-priced at 33/1.
Having watched the final run-through this afternoon, it struck me for the first time that this is the right song at the right time in the running order. Here’s another entry which will appeal across the continent and contains an amazing performance from Nadine Beiler, who lifts ‘The Secret Is Love’ into something else.
Context is so important. It’s unfortunate for a whole host of songs which could otherwise have been very strong contenders that they are on early tonight. Finland, and to an even greater extent Bosnia and Denmark, would have been in contention with the right draw. But now they are part of a run of three blokes-with-guitars at the very start of the show.
Similarly, the Hungary – Ireland – Sweden – Estonia run of songs in the 5-8 positions, swiftly followed by Russia at 10, gives us a whirl of uptempo songs, again very early in the show. Whilst they are in some ways very distinct from each other, I don’t think that one stands out as sufficiently better than the others to challenge for victory.
If forced to choose which one of those will perform best on the leaderboard, I would go for Estonia, because it’s the best song with the cutest staging.
Of the other contenders within the Big 5, I’m afraid the curse of the boy or girl band at Eurovision in recent years seems to have afflicted the UK’s Blue, who will not be winning based on last night’s underpowered jury rehearsal.
Germany’s Lena has the advantage of being introduced to the TV audience during the opening act, reminding us she is last year’s winner. However, ‘Taken By A Stranger’ is surely too arty for the main prize. And I would be shocked if anything I haven’t mentioned yet emerges as a contender for the win.
In summary, then, here’s Sofabet’s Top 3 prediction:
What do you think? Please let me know in the comments box below – I look forward to hearing your thoughts and fleshing out my own thoughts in the discussion.