Eurovision 2013: Semi 2 Early Thoughts

In my preliminary look at the first semi, I explained that I currently find this second heat easier to decipher. I have a better idea of where I think each entry stands that’s reflected in this article. There are handy recaps such as this one on YouTube to help get the shape of the semi clear in your mind.

For readers who are new to Sofabet, or Eurovision betting in general, I should perhaps issue a general note of caution: much can change during the two weeks of rehearsals, and the thoughts below are subject to change as we see how the songs are being staged and how comfortable the acts look performing live. During this period, entries will go up or down in qualifying estimations accordingly.

One other general problem with my sliding scale: the top nine includes only two of the last six to perform. Historically at least four of the last six to perform have managed to reach the final from every semi since 2009. My current list allows room for another qualifier among the last six, but either way it assumes that this semi’s particular set of songs will not match that stat from the previous eight heats.

I’m going to start with what I perceive to be the bottom of the pile, and work my way up. Latvia and Macedonia have very little going for them and I’m currently dismissing them as no-hopers.

Hungary and Romania are drawn among the final six but right now I don’t think they have much else going for them. ‘Kedvesem’ has fans yet is the kind of song that televoters largely ignore at Eurovision whilst I don’t think juries will be impressed by the delivery. Cezar may have the pimp slot, but ‘It’s My Life’ is the kind of number that juries would crucify even if it were sung normally, let alone the falsetto we get (countertenor is too kind a description).

Iceland’s ‘Eg a Lif’ is a little too bland to pack a punch from its midway draw and I see it as another struggler. It’s not a completely hopeless case, but above it I’ve currently got San Marino, Albania and Switzerland fighting it out for tenth spot on my sliding scale. I have issues with all three which means I think they’re borderline qualifiers at best.

San Marino faces the hurdle of a poor draw and potentially OTT staging that may hamper its televote and jury score respectively despite its status as a fan favourite. Meanwhile, I don’t think that ‘Identitet’ offers viewers a pleasing melody, structure or visual appeal though Albania has some voting strength and a decent draw. Finally, I’m not convinced by the live performances I’ve seen of the cheesy ‘You and Me’ but at least the Swiss song offers viewers a hummable melody from the plum draw of 16.

Of my current top nine, Finland is my most borderline case among these possible qualifiers. ‘Marry Me’ is Marmite bubblegum that plenty dislike, but I consider it potentially memorable enough to get a top ten place in the televote and well preformed enough to get a reasonable place in the jury vote, which is why I have placed it here.

‘Lonely Planet’ is another that tends to polarise opinion. Armenia’s voting strength in this semi shouldn’t be underestimated, however. Compare it to 2011 when the same country’s ‘Boom Boom’ fell a point short in a bigger field of 19. There may be two fewer countries participating this time but Armenia has two more allies (subtracting Turkey and Russia but adding France, Israel, Germany and Bulgaria). The vocals will also be much less ropey this time around.

Otherwise, there’s plenty going for the other seven. Israel has lots of jury appeal, whilst Bulgaria has a full-ethno niche of its own in a semi packed with countries where this kind of thing goes down very well. Sofabet commenter Justin pointed out Paddy Power’s mistake in initially making this the outsider of the lot to qualify at 6/4. Neither Malta nor Azerbaijan are particularly well drawn, but they should be safe because they offer something straightforward and competent.

This brings me to the top three of my current sliding scale. In terms of allies, it’s a very friendly semi for Greece, and I think ‘Alcohol Is Free’ is going to do extremely well in the televote. A bigger question mark hangs over its jury support, but that’s not so important for the lower quality of a 17-field heat than a 26-runner final that includes the jury bait from each semi and the automatic qualifiers.

It’s no surprise to see a market headed by the well drawn pairing of Norway and Georgia. There has been growing momentum behind the latter’s ‘Waterfall’ in the Betfair win market over the last week. I want to see it performed live before I make any huge judgments though. Meanwhile, Margaret Berger impressed during the Norwegian final, but with playback assistance. As with the first semi, this is another duel for which I’ll sit on the fence at this early stage.

Rehearsals may well shift opinions, and entries invariably slide up or down the scale as a result. My most nagging doubt concerns the lack of qualifiers from the last part of the draw. Would that bother you, and does your own ranking include more of these entries in your top ten? Let us know below. Sofabet commenters Tim B, Boki and Chewy Wesker have already given us their lists.

30 comments to Eurovision 2013: Semi 2 Early Thoughts

  • Ben Cook

    I think I read somewhere that there have been more qualifiers than non-qualifiers from slot 2 so that isn’t necessarily a bad place to be for San Marino. But I still think this is a fan favourite that Europe won’t get.

    I reckon Iceland will go through with a big jury vote if he performs well. It reminds me of You Raise Me Up.

    I don’t see either Armenia or Romania qualifying despite their previous record. They’re just dreadful entries. I don’t fancy Albania to qualify either.

    Georgia or Azerbaijan to win the semi.

  • Boki

    After some “negotiations” with my betting partner Bulgaria climbed to a probable while Romania keeps floating between nq and border. Globally very much in line with you Daniel.

  • Tim B

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts Daniel! I mostly agree except I think Albania is a certain qualifier and Romania has a chance.

    Having had a few days to digest the draw and crunch the numbers etc, I’ve updated my SF2 list to the following;

    Latvia – NO
    San Marino – NO
    FYR Macedonia – NO
    Azerbaijan – YES
    Finland – NO
    Malta – YES
    Bulgaria – YES
    Iceland – NO
    Greece – YES
    Israel – YES
    Armenia – YES
    Hungary – NO
    Norway – YES
    Albania – YES
    Georgia – YES
    Switzerland – NO
    Romania – YES

    Looking forward to seeing if rehearsals will change my mind 🙂

  • Justin

    Great article Daniel. Pretty much with you on all of it.

    I agree that Greece will win the televote in this semi. Coming immediately after dull Iceland is a boost and another nail in the coffin of Iceland’s qualification chances.

    The same argument can apply to the understated Hungarian entry. It will possibly be lost by being followed by the visually stimulating Norway which is also likely to get a big reception from the stadium audience.

    I see Israel as a jury magnet with little televote appeal. But in my view there’s less competition for the jury vote in this semi which means Israel could easily get top 3 in that category which makes qualification very likely.

  • LAT – NO
    SAN MAR – 2/3
    FYROM – NO
    AZE – YES
    FIN – 2/3
    MAL – YES
    BUL – 2/3
    ISL – NO
    GRE – YES
    ISR – YES
    ARM – YES
    HUN – NO
    NOR – YES
    ALB – 1/3
    GEO – YES
    SWI – 1/3
    ROM – 1/3

    I have 7 definite qualifiers. I think 2 out of 3 from San Marino, Finland and Bulgaria will qualify. I I had to choose at this stage it would be San Marino and Finland. Then, I think 1 out of 3 from Albania, Switzerland and Romania will qualify. If I had to choose now I would say Switzerland.

  • trollgirl

    I think Cezars chances shouldnt be ruled out so easily. Although much of the diaspora wont be able to vote in this semi final, there are still plenty of romanians to go round all over europe, and believe me, they will take it as a patriotic duty to vote, regardless of song quality. In fact, especially because they know the whole act is ridiculous and needs help, they will vote. Plus its the pimp slot. I have a feeling it will qualify… although I wish it wouldnt.

  • Boki

    Bet365 has Q prices up.

  • Daniel,
    I also have Bulgaria down as a qualifier, but I’m still curious: what countries do you have as likely strong supporters of them in this semi apart from Greece, Spain and Hungary?

    • Daniel

      Hi squall, apart from the ones you mention, Macedonia and France. There’ll be some points from Malta too.

      • Ah, it turns out I had completely missed entering Macedonia as a voter in my semi 2 sheet 🙂 thanks for the reminder, and I definitely agree that they should be a solid source of votes for Bulgaria here. France I don’t see as quite as safe, but since they did give Water 5 points back in the 2007 finals I guess it’s likely that they will contribute here, too.

        • Daniel

          Hi squall, I don’t expect Bulgaria to be in the French televote top two (we have Armenia and Israel for that), but this constituency is dominated by diaspora in the semi. For example, ‘Water’ got eight points from France in its heat despite being first song to perform.

          On the three occasions when France has been voting in Bulgaria’s semi since (2008, 2011 and 2012), some points have been given, admittedly only a maximum of six. Still, without the likes of Turkey and Portugal, who both used to do very well in the French televote, I’m expecting a top five position for ‘Samo Shampioni’ here. What the French jury will think is open to question.

  • Montell

    Hey, Daniel. Could tell us what strategy you use to bet on Eurovision. Let’s speak about semi finals here. I can see three options here:
    1. Guessing nearly all qualifiers and non-qualifiers and betting on them;
    2. Betting only on top one or two events with most predictable outcome;
    3. Betting only on those events with value, i.e. events with odds bigger than you expect to be.

    • Daniel

      It’s a great question Montell and my best answer is a mixture of all three things you mention. Ultimately how someone decides to approach it is a highly individual choice and can change from year to year based on how confident one is or the nature of the entries / overall field.

    • eurovicious

      My personal strategy in 2012 (I won €2800) focused heavily on jury tastes in combination with diasporal voting patterns. For value, I exploited the fact that most punters are a) contest fans and b) British, and thus have 1) a very Western and often quite Eurovisiony taste in music and 2) an inexpert understanding of eastern European geopolitics and the nuances of diasporas. This year I’m adding a more statistical approach to underpin the above. Almost all of my profits last year came from just 4 countries that I was confident in and on which I put most of my money: Albania in SF1, Estonia in SF2, and Azerbaijan and Sweden in the final. I initially put the most money on SF1, then reinvested in SF2, then in the final, building from one show to the next. Match bets and joint bets are great too – like “country X to beat country Y” and “countries X and Y to both qualify”. Lesson learnt from last year: Don’t focus on the win market, especially months before the contest. And it goes without saying, but it’s crucial to put your personal taste to one side and see past it. I thought I’d done this last year but I didn’t completely, leading my to overestimate Norway and Iceland’s chances.

      • Daniel

        Agree with all that. Related to it is something that has served me well over the years, which is to find the fan favourite that you think will flop and ‘lay’ it. My biggest liabilities have often been based on this strategy in the top ten market: Hungary in 2011; Cyprus and to a lesser extent Iceland in 2012.

  • dicksbits

    It does seem to me that one shouldn’t forget that small countries can really suffer (with little diaspora and few obvious allies). I think Switzerland will wrestle with qualification, along with Finland and San Marino. Thoughts?

    • Boki

      Yes, they need something more than the others but it was always like that – e.g. high quality song or great draw or extra jury boost coming from nowhere (like Malta last year).

      • Tim B

        Malta EVERY year…notice now the dreadful ‘One Life’ almost qualified in 2011 😉 😉 😉

        • Boki

          True. I wonder what will happen this year with this unconditional jury love since last year the qualification target was achieved. Are they going to pick a new one? (no, I didn’t say SM ;))

  • Chewy Wesker

    I really think bulgaria and israel may disappoint backers in this semi-final, i don’t think romania can be ruled out with their last draw slot. Hungary i think may do better with the juries than people think. +Georgia to win semi-final.
    As for semi-final 1, I feel i’m more in line with you guys on that one, all but croatia. Estonia i think may edge out croatia and take a step into the final, where she may do very well.

  • yqt1001

    I read an interesting editorial today: http://wiwibloggs.com/2013/03/29/editorial-is-europe-too-happy-for-sad-songs/23245/ While I don’t fully agree with it, it does add another good perspective. Fairytale is a pretty sad song deep down in the lyrics, however the overall feel is positive. All of the top 3 songs this year are pretty negative in feel or lyrics. Do Ukraine and Germany have better chances because of this?

    • Boki

      Btw, Israeli song title is off putting in the Balkan countries since word “Rak” means (among others) “Cancer”.

      • Tim B

        What about the visual appeal, Boki? Moran Mazor is relatively overweight (in Eurovision terms) and is currently showing too much boob. Wearing glasses is fine as it makes her memorable but she really should’ve gone to Specsavers.

      • eurovicious

        Yep, in all Slavic languages. And the star sign. I don’t think people pay that much attention to song titles though.

  • CJ

    I don’t agree with the negative lyrics theory.. Look at Iceland 2009. Very sad lyrics but still stormed to 2nd place. And whilst Denmark this year may have sad lyrics, it’s a very upbeat song. Having said that I do think Denmark is incredibly overrated & we’re heading to Georgia or Norway next year.

  • Well I wrote a nice big passage earlier which my browser than screwed up and threw away once I hit submit, so here’s a rough summary of my thoughts instead.

    Latvia — Most likely out but potentially the surprise qualifier. Song will find its audience, engaging the audience will work well for them.

    San Marino — Most likely out. Hugely outdated and irrelevant showpiece with likely OTT staging. Siegel continues to prove he’s past it. + Thin voting support.

    Macedonia — Out. No neighbour support.
    Azerbaijan — Through.

    Finland — Likely to qualify. Global bubblegum pop hit. 6 person stage rule forces Krista to pull back on previously OTT staging. Vocals always very good.

    Malta — Borderline. Rivals Switzerland for the “aw that’s nice” vote.

    Bulgaria — Likely to qualify. Great performance in store, some casual viewers may remember them. No they won’t finish 5th again but calling them non-qualifiers is going too far.

    Iceland — Strong melody, singalong chorus, Celtic appeal in instrumentation. “Kuula” effect. Stayed in Icelandic for a good reason.

    Greece — Through.
    Israel — Out. Decent but not memorable enough.

    Armenia — Rivals Albania in rock song. Voting power, English language and Tony Iommi’s name on their side.

    Hungary — Most likely out – Good song but not capable of filling an arena. Remote possibility of qualification.

    Norway — Through.

    Albania — Rivals Armenia in rock song. Better song and performers of the two.

    Georgia — Through.

    Switzerland — Borderline. Strong melody with good draw but rivals Malta for “aaw vote” and owing to low voting power.

    Romania — Likely to qualify. I think the final version is yet to be heard publically. Only the EBU have heard it and have given them the pimp slot. Must be a good reason, because it’s currently too under-produced musically to close the show. Juries will find it hard to resist, they too put Grannies way above Engelbert after all.

  • trollgirl

    Daniel – I was looking up something random on wikipedia, where I noticed 2008, the first year that had 2 semi finals. In the second semi final only 2 from the last six performers qualified. So there you go, its not without a precedent… Yes it was a year without juries, but that makes it an even more outstanding situation, as televoters perception of songs should be more affected by running order, shouldnt it. …Although I wish you were wrong as I am rooting so much for Hungarian boy, and I wish it could be a surprise qualifier.

    • Daniel

      Hi trollgirl, you are right about 2008 which is why I only used the heats from 2009 to make my point. I won’t be backing Hungary to qualify but I’ll be delighted for you if it goes through.

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