It’s here; after months of speculating. I wish I could tell you the fog has cleared, but tonight’s Eurovision is a fiendish puzzle. We have televote-friendly numbers that may struggle with juries, and vice versa. There’s a strong set of songs from the former Soviet bloc that look likely to reward each other, against a number of Nordic and other western entries that may well do the same. And most of the favourites are packed together in the favoured last third of the draw.
The announcement of the voting order – which is computer generated to ensure as close a finish as possible based on the stats from the already-compiled jury scores – didn’t help matters. Last year, the lack of the Scandi mafia until later on made it clear; the number of theories that attached themselves to last night’s revelation only serves to show there is no obvious theory this time around.
My betting amounts today will be paltry by my own standards. I’m not risking much of my San Marino winnings and instead accepting a smaller overall profit and return than usual. Nonetheless, here’s how I view it tonight.
Let’s start with odds-on favourite Denmark. It has winner’s staging, a commanding central performance and a great draw; it’s the most obvious winner. But at a shorter price than Loreen even after last year’s voting order virtually spelt out in easy-to-decipher code S-W-E-D-E-N, it can’t be seen as any value.
I’ve always had my fears about the appeal of second-favourite Norway to a wider Eurovision audience. It’s one of my favourite entries this year, it has a wonderful draw and I haven’t doubted Margaret Berger’s ability on stage all week. But I don’t think that’s enough in itself.
Third-favourite Ukraine has long been dismissed in these quarters. That’s because ‘Gravity’ is an unstructured mess of a song and it turned out the staging is ridiculous. Yet once over these things, I started seeing the attraction of it, which mainly lies in Zlata Ognevich. She could sell manure and that’s pretty much what she’s doing here.
From this point onwards we get the televote / jury discrepancies. Televote-friendly numbers from Azerbaijan, Greece, Finland and Germany may not have been treated so well by jurors. Jury bait from Italy, Netherlands and Iceland may struggle for greater traction with the viewing public. Russia and Georgia offer two formulaic eastern bloc ballads as do Moldova.
The last-named along with Finland, Germany and Netherlands seems the most likely among the first half to hit the top ten. On that subject, in the last ten years, 46 top ten finishes have come from the first half of the draw, 54 from the second half. The biggest outliers were 2006 (where none of the first 9 were in the top ten and 8 were from the second half) and 2007 (7 from the second half). In the four finals since juries were reintroduced, it’s 21-19 in favour of the first half.
Of course we’ve never had a situation whereby the prodcuers decided the running order, and in an apparent desire not to offend any of the market leaders, packed them together towards the end of the draw. Given that Hungary and Iceland are jokers in the pack that hold their own even in this exalted company, there is an unprecedented run of appealing entries, from 17 to 25.
In the last ten years, there have been two instances of four countries top-tenning together in the running order (17-20 in 2012 and 21-24 in 2007), and a further eight of three countries top-tenning together. You’d have to assume on these trends that at the very least one of these eight is falling short. Yet, having just watched the final dress rehearsal, they almost all put in top ten performances.
On which subject my top ten suggestion at a value price is Iceland to get there at 7/2 with Coral and better on Betfair. I first checked the odds about this as Eythor sung his heart out in the last rehearsal before the semi-final. It’s the best-staged, most natural big Eurovision ballad of the night, and Eythor is the standout male vocalist with a bit of Thor-meets-Russell Crowe sex appeal. Turns out I think he is this year’s Ott Lepland after all. Only hairier.
I always fear how geographically isolated Iceland is in Eurovision voting terms, and this is a very Icelandic package. It’s also unfortunate to be following ‘Only Teardrops’ and the rapture that will be greeted with by tonight’s audience. I’m hoping that jury love and coming across as a less contrived package will be enough.
Further down the scoreboard, every time Spain rehearse I check out their last place odds and place a small bet. You can still get 15/8 with Boylesports. I also tend to look at the double-digit prices being offered on Belarus, the UK and Sweden for last place too, but satisfy myself by laying them at prohibitively short prices in the top ten market instead.
Who do I think will fill the top three places tonight? I’d go with Denmark followed by Azerbaijan and Greece. Denmark doesn’t offer any value, but despite the voting strength and televote appeal of the the other two, their jury scores may well scupper any chance of victory. Unfortunately, bookmakers are being rather stingy with their each-way terms too. I’m leaving the outright market alone for these reasons.
I wish you all good luck tonight. Do feel free to post your podium predictions, as well as any other bets you have found below.