Eurovision 2013: Semi 1 Early Thoughts

Every year I think that one of the Eurovision semi-finals is much trickier than the other one and every year I am much more successful betting on the other one. This may be a self-fulfilling prophecy. I’m more cautious about what I perceive to be the ‘tricky’ semi, and my punting reflects that.

Which leads me to the first semi-final of the 2013 contest. Like last year I think it’s the more difficult of the two. In this year’s second semi, I have a list of nine songs I see as probable qualifiers. I can’t currently come close to matching that in the first semi. For this reason I don’t see myself getting heavily involved in it before rehearsals begin.

Here’s why.

Firstly, I think the general standard of the entries is lower and as the smaller heat – with only 16 countries scrapping for ten places in the final – the bar to qualifying is much lower. This makes it harder to label anything as a no-hoper and lay it for qualification.

As an indication of this, when I go through the recap which Boki linked to in our comments section, and rank how well I think each song will do in two columns – the jury vote and televote – there are about eleven songs I end up lumping together in the lower reaches of each.

Secondly, the draw has thrown punters a curveball by placing the four market leaders for this semi – Denmark, Russia, Ukraine and The Netherlands next to each other in the first half at 5, 6, 7 and 8. I think the Croatian entry drawn at number 4 is one of the stronger entries in the heat too.

There are only two occasions since 2008 when five songs from the first half of a semi draw have finished in the top ten – the second heats of 2010 and 2011. Nonetheless, this semi seems determined to add to that tally.

It makes life harder for the three songs that start proceedings – Austria, Estonia and Slovenia – who face an uphill struggle. Their supporters have to hope they will be helped by this year’s new system of ranking all the songs before allotting points and the greater emphasis this gives to juries rather than the supposedly shorter memories of televoters.

The third issue I have with this semi, which is related to the other two, is that the second half of the heat is full of entries about which I can’t yet be confident of a strong live performance. Ironically, the most likely non-qualifier in terms of song, from Cyprus, features arguably the most secure vocalist among the eight.

Otherwise, it’s a case of waiting till rehearsals to see just how well the likes of Montenegro, Lithuania, Moldova, Belarus, Ireland, Belgium and Serbia come across on stage. The one people may take issue with here is the catchy Belarussian entry, but I thought Alyona Lanskaya was adequate at best even with playback assistance when performing ‘Solayoh’ live as a guest at two national finals.

So, given these uncertainties, where do I stand on this semi’s win market as of now? My opinion is that Ukraine and Belarus are two of the more over-rated entries in bookmakers lists. Whilst I like the Netherlands song, I worry about its televote appeal, especially without a late draw.

This leaves Russia and Denmark who at this stage look like the most obvious contenders to win the heat. It’s a relatively friendly semi for Russia (and by extension, Ukraine) with plenty of allies from the former Soviet Union present. Cyprus has usually been pretty supportive too, as have the Balkan countries once they look beyond their own region.

Having said that, in Denmark’s favour there’s an absence of many diaspora-rich nations which means less competition for the televote in western European nations like Belgium and The Netherlands. Therefore of the two leading contenders, drawn back-to-back early on, I don’t favour one strongly over the other at this stage.

Potentially there is room for a juicily-priced outsider in the second half of the draw to sneak a place and reward each-way backers. The 25-1 about Serbia was understandably taken once they got the pimp slot. But here, as with qualification, I’m going to wait till rehearsals to assess just who has sorted potential issues with vocals and staging.

Sofabet commenters Tim B, Boki and Chewy Wesker have already got further off the fence than I’m currently prepared to and listed the ten they see as the likely qualifiers at this pre-rehearsal stage. How clear is the picture for you? Do let us know below.

36 comments to Eurovision 2013: Semi 1 Early Thoughts

  • Hello Daniel and everyone else. I was directed to this site by Eurovicious while discussing Eurovision betting. This is something I am a total novice at. Just trying to figure out how Betfair works makes my head spin, I prefer to stick to clear maths of x/1 odds with traditional bookies, although last year I became a bit unhealthily fixated on trying to work out the biggest return for the lowest risk which went all the way to the final, and I had considered bets of my entire (student!!!) savings of £1,200. As clear a winner as Euphoria was I was unnerved by Spain and Italy and eventually chickened out.

    On the upside I did make a pleasing £190 on Azerbaijan in 2011, with little more than gut instinct on a studio version and the visual impact of their pyro curtain to guide me. I wish I had to think that little about my bets now!

    Like many others, I do have a sort of “criteria” for what makes a Eurovision winner which I’ve narrowed down to a song falling into at least one of three categories… potential chart hits, high-calibre/timeless/classy songs and accessible, enjoyable novelty songs. Whether an individual song falls into any of these categories is debatable, but by my personal judgement, no song in any top 5 since 2008 has failed to do so.

    I’ve read all the articles you’ve posted in the 2013 season and eagerly look forward to following your sage advice, because after chickening out last year, I’m really keen to make some money. How you manage to gamble five (or more) figure sums though I’ll never know. My nerves would be absolutely shot! 😀

  • Daniel

    Hi Ben and welcome to Sofabet. Responding to your post at this stage is probably a good time to offer some words to anybody in your position.

    The amounts I bet on Eurovision have been growing for 15 years, and it continues to be an exercise in trial and error about which I’m still learning. Which is my way of saying: don’t necessarily jump in with huge amounts to begin with.

    Next, when you do bet, don’t blindly follow someone else but reach your own conclusions. I do end up saying what I think will qualify / be in the top 10 / win, but I try to present both sides of the argument so that readers can decide which they find more convincing.

    In conclusion, I want our readers to use Sofabet to inform themselves, and in turn bring their own thoughts to our comments section. This kind of collaboration is invaluable to the site.

    Most of all, enjoy the challenge!

  • Boki

    Hi Daniel, I agree this is the more tricky semi and will keep an eye on the rehearsals. Lot of entries depend on staging/performance, so my early judgement might change 10 times before the final so it shouldn’t be taken very seriously. There are already Q odds @Bwin btw.

    Another word of advice for Ben: forget 2012. This is completely new year and focus on it only, if you keep a sense of regret (because you “chickened out” last year and the opportunity was missed) it could misguide you.

    • Martin F.

      Thanks for spotting that bwin have put up the qualification odds – I’d been checking in every few days, as they’ve been quite friendly to me over the years. Not a huge amount of value right now, but I’ve had a nibble here and there…

    • Boki

      Nordicbet has them also up.

  • Tim B

    I think Russia is best-placed to win Semi Final 1. As well as having huge voting power here, the song also appeals to Western tastes. Also has the crucial combination of being both very jury and televote-friendly. Denmark is their biggest rival here, but has much less voting power. If they can beat Russia to win SF1, they might go on to win the whole thing. However, with a draw in the first half of the final, I’m convinced that someone else would win.

  • Ben Cook

    Will Russia appeal to Western televoters? I am always surprised to see how big ballads performed well do terribly on the televote. I don’t see why Russia would do any better than e.g. Austria 2011 with non ex-USSR televoters. It’ll end up doing better overall because it’s Russia of course.

    But I cannot see how a song like it can win unless it’s really powerful like Molitva, or has a gimmick, or is sung by a duo which seems to do well recently. I haven’t ruled out Georgia.

  • Tim B

    Russia this year is a song (in my opinion) that ticks all of the boxes in a year where so few do. In an open year, which arguably this is, then this could be enough to win, especially if it gets a draw in the second half. I do think Western televoters and juries will appreciate it. Dina Garipova is also one of the very best singers in this year’s contest.

    • Boki

      My problem with Russia is the fact it’s too safe and juries might easily go with more original/interesting entries. Dina is also somewhat less votable to neutrals than Zlata who shows her voice more and better (but her song is confusing). So the best of the bunch for me remains Georgia as only duet who also can sing unlike many before. And this is all without knowing the final order of course, I wonder how many discussions here turn to rubbish when we get to know the draw 🙂

  • Justin

    Daniel I am sure you will touch on this in your semi 2 preview but could you give us an indication of your thoughts on the Bulgarian entry?

    Given the pair’s record from 2007 they appear to have at least 5 potential (big) televote allies in their semi and I dont see any reason why juries would ignore something which appears to me to be ethnic, original and effectively performed. Its quite alien to my Western ears but it doesn’t sound any less appealing than ‘Water”.

    • Daniel

      Hi Justin, it’s in my list of nine qualifiers at this early stage, largely for the reasons you mention. I’m not sure it’s quite as appealing as ‘Water’ to my ears but that may change when we see the stage show, which was what helped the duo into fifth place in 2007.

      • Justin

        Thanks Daniel, glad I did my research at the weekend! I know its early but Paddy Power go 6/4 for Bulgaria qualification which looks a shade big to me.

      • Boki

        THe odds are too big but what’s more amazing is that Bulgaria is on the bottom of Paddy’s Q list even behind Latvia!?

        • Yeah, it’s pretty amazing that they still manage to offer value despite playing it incredibly safe (the way one can only do when one offers qualifying odds but no non-qualifying odds…).

  • Justin

    Paddy Power have Q prices too… but they are pretty grim…

    • Martin F.

      It’s a shame Paddy Power’s aren’t Yes/No markets like at Bwin or Nordicbet. I’d love to know if they’d dare to offer the other side of bizarre prices like 2/7 for Estonia and 1/5 for Romania to qualify… Different pricing mechanisms apply when you’re only offering one side of the equation, I suppose.

  • Talking just about winner here, realistically speaking, I just can’t see anyone beating Germany. Its similarities to Euphoria really should be a clear signal in my opinion. Cascada are a well known name performing a song in a style that rarely fails to chart all around the continent, and she delivers it powerfully. It’s virtually the only song likely to make an impact in the heavily youth-driven charts of today (in the UK at least) and people all over Europe of a relatively wide age range will identify with a song like Glorious. Europe’s been partying to music like this for over 2 decades.

    and this is where I get a bit unnerved. Everyone keeps telling me Cascada aren’t -that- big, their chart success is relatively insignificant, the song is dated, everyone will think its a copy of Euphoria, the juries will punish it for that very reason (is that ethical??) and I can’t seem to find anybody who agrees with me. 🙁

    • Shai

      @Ben,

      It happens very rarely, in Eurovision,that 2 songs in the same style win in a row.Eurovision take a step forward and than take 2 steps backwards.Just look what has happened in Eurovision since 1998.Every year a different style wins.I think this goes, something like 20 years back(and even longer).
      The history of the contest goes against Germany, though it has all the ingredients to do very well.

      • Ben Cook

        Just because it hasn’t happened recently doesn’t mean it can’t happen. I can’t think of any examples of songs which would realistically have won if they hadn’t been similar to the previous year’s winner.

    • Chewy Wesker

      Hi Ben, Cascada are massive dance act that have been around for many years. I think they could well have a shot at winning if they get a second half draw, but a first half draw i think stv may have them as the show starter coffin slot. But the price on germany has been on the drift, and with betfair you can back and lay and trade your way to profit. Punting on eurovision or anything else is all about judgement and value. Over time you should build up profits, one thing to remember is that only 10% of betfair accounts are in profit most punters lose their betting bank over time. Last year i backed germany for the win at all sorts of prices from 18/1 all the way up 40/1 come the final, i also had back germany in the top ten market at around 8/11 come the day of the final roman lob was almost 2/1 for a top ten place. I broke even come the end of the night but i had planed to trade the win bet off for profit, and to be fair his price did get back to 20 after he’d sung. But sweden were just too fancied loreen was to backed into odds on. And there was not much chance to take gains. I was saved by the my top ten bet. But i’d advise to hedge your bets. Daniel always has a wait and see approach, which is very wise indeed. Good luck anyway ben i wish you all the best with it.

      • Same here. Had Germany for plenty but underestimated the sentiment towards the country. Top 10 bet saved me too – came out level on Germany position in the end.

      • Ben Cook

        I agree Cascada need a late draw to win. She also needs to nail the vocal to get juries onside. It’s definitely a contender.

        • Daniel

          Hi Ben, whatever Cascada’s winning chances, IF Germany gets put in the second half of the final, producers would be silly not to leave ‘Glorious’ till late.

          Cascada are a relatively big name representing a country with a big TV and music market. I can’t imagine them getting the 14 slot instead of something in the last six or seven should they be in that second half.

  • Chewy Wesker

    Paddy powers’ prices for semi-final 1. Estonia 2/7 well i like this song but with her early second place draw i won’t be backing at that price it’s much bigger on betfair anyway, ireland at 1/5 well that again is a little too short, but i backed ireland already at 4/6 with paddy before their song entries were releast, this was cut to 1/2 and when the songs came out on youtube paddy cut their odds to 2/9, now 1/5 the irish bookies must think “only love survives” is already in malmo. I do think ireland will make it but dustin the turkey is in the back of my mind with this one. Serbia at 1/5 looks like value price to me. Croatia to my mind may do well on jury score but i really can’t see those boys making it. Cyprus too is a jury vote but i feel she won’t make it also. Lithuania is a much more televote friendly song 8/13 is too short so i’ll be looking to betfair for more value. But i know what you mean by semi-final 1, being the tricky one of the two semi-finals. I would also go for russia for the win over denmark.

  • Tim B

    Is it too late for Aliona Moon to sing in English in Malmo for Moldova? The decision to sing in Romanian is a bit daft, isn’t it?

    • Daniel

      Hi Tim, it seems pretty much confirmed that Aliona is singing in Romanian. It’s certainly unusually to win a national final in English then switch back – usually it’s the other way round. Who knows the thinking behind it. Perhaps they hope to get some votes from Romanians around Europe too embarrassed to support Cesar this year? 🙂

    • Boki

      Seeing the national final It looks to me that she might have some trouble singing it in English. It’s a difficult song to sing and my guess is they switched to Romanian for that reason.

  • Russia for me. This kind of High School Musical type song is tired in the UK for sure, but over the whole electorate it’s honey. Knock EW. imo

  • Russia v Germany – 5/6 – 6/5 – i would be all in on Russia.The general opinion is that Glorious is a copy of Euphoria and i would agree. I would bet 1/5 -5/1 seriously.

  • Actually, Malmö 2013 goes down in the history books as one of the contest with the lowest percentage of English language songs since 2004 (When the English language was at an height and when the contest was expanded with semi finals).

  • Tim B

    Daniel, after watching the video of Georgia’s staging I was wondering if you knew the answer to this question: will the running orders have been decided with these staging videos/concepts in mind? I am wondering if part of the reason Serbia/Romania were given the pimp slots is because of some extravagant staging, or just because of the songs alone?

    • Daniel

      That’s a really good question Tim and my honest answer is I don’t know. My guess is that it would more likely be because of the songs alone because staging can change even during the rehearsal period.

  • Tim B

    Semi Final 1 thoughts post-draw, pre-rehearsals.

    Austria – NO
    Estonia – NO
    Slovenia – NO
    Croatia – YES
    Denmark – YES
    Russia – YES
    Ukraine – YES
    The Netherlands – YES
    Montenegro – NO
    Lithuania – YES
    Belarus – YES
    Moldova – YES
    Ireland – YES
    Cyprus – NO
    Belgium – NO
    Serbia – YES

    I feel like a bit of a plonker for laying Moldova so much at 1.4 now, so will have to hedge out later when I can. Hoping the Romanian language will put people off or she’ll have a dodgy first rehearsal. I do maintain that 1.4 is far too short though.

  • Germany is not a contender in the slightest. Where have all these Cascada trolls come from?! I might have said it on here before but it’s just not a great song – it’s not even a good Cascada song. The juries will crucify it for being unoriginal and so similar to ‘Euphoria’, which itself only won because of the incredible vocals and unique, innovative staging. ‘Glorious’ is extremely ordinary and is not the type of song juries go for. If you want to judge how well the entry may do, look at Iceland’s ‘Je ne sais quoi’ or ‘This Is My Life’ – both of which were better songs. I don’t think that the song being by Cascada will make much of a difference. The song hasn’t charted all across Europe, it only reached number 6 in Germany (not exactly a ringing endorsement) and number 29 in Austria. For a song to win Eurovision, it has to have the potential to win the televote AND the jury vote, and I strongly believe it won’t come close to the top of either.

    Personally, in the win market I’m only looking towards Norway, Russia, Georgia and Denmark at this time.

    • eurovicious

      My assessment of Glorious is pretty much the same as Daniel’s. There’s a sense juries may punish it for being too similar to last year’s winner, but Natalie has the vocals, the experience and the stage presence to deliver it superbly – and together with Ireland (which has a less reliable vocal and a much less charismatic/experienced performer) it’s the most commercial song in the contest, plus the best and most rousing of the few upbeat numbers. I agree it won’t win, but those two Icelandic songs aren’t good comparisons – they’re for the gays, most viewers would much prefer Glorious to either of them. (Don’t get me wrong, I love Hera and This Is My Life is one of my favourite ever ESC songs, I’m speaking from a critical perspective here.)

      Georgia is a real candidate for the win, but one question hangs over it – the importance of youth. Bilan, Rybak, Lena, Ell/Nikki and Loreen all embodied and conveyed youth and relevance – excepting Bilan, their performances were sold on charisma, personality and chemistry. Georgia’s pair have a good song but they’re a bit older and it’s not quite as effective as Running Scared, plus their chemistry is a bit more “your parents at a wedding” than Ell/Nikki’s was. I hate the thought of Denmark winning, Russia even more so, and I don’t think Norway will connect with viewers at all and it also faces a lot of competition in the jury vote. Netherlands is great and could easily top the jury vote in the final but won’t win the televote or attract a younger vote. It could be a very close-run year. But then again, two-thirds of the time, something I can’t stick wins, so it could be Denmark. Though I am already seeing voices saying it’ll “do a Rockefeller”.

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