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.
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.