EBU Head Jon Ola Sand announced that three points covered 10th-12th place in Tuesday’s first semi-final, reminding us how thin the margin can be in these heats. Still, with no Albania and San Marino, there probably won’t be any jury-only scores this time, which makes the job of predicting a little easier. Just a little, though.
Let’s start with who may be winning this semi: my money has been on Greece from the start to carry on its fine record in the heats since 2008 (the form figures read 142142). I still recommend it at 10-3 to win the semi in a few places, including bet365.
‘Rise Up’ is a typical Greek entry in that it’s a wonderfully-staged televote magnet. From the arena, Eurovicious described its effect on the audience in last night’s jury rehearsal as “destroying [the competition]” and that was the way it came across on the TV feed too. The question remains the juries themselves, but in a semi-final like this, it’s head and shoulders above those fishing in the same pond, such as Romania, and there’s not that much jury bait to push it significantly down their rankings.
Norway, along with Romania, is Greece’s main rival in this market, but Carl Espen has a difficult job winning this from the #3 slot, despite the classy nature of ‘Silent Storm’. He doesn’t open up enough in the first half of the song to get televoters on board. The other leading lights in the market – Austria, Israel and Malta – are also hampered by early draws.
Malta is a highly effective opener and has been my biggest play in the qualification market, as a safe, middle-of-the-road option to go through. It’s not much of a price for that any more though. If you want to get involved in Austria this evening, my instinct is that broadcasters will wait till the last envelope to announce Conchita Wurst’s progression to the Grand Final. The To Qualify market on Betfair will still be offering odds in-running.
There’s quite a few in this semi that fill the “probable but by no means certain” qualifier category. Among them are Finland, Switzerland and Belarus. Finland should offer enough in its own genre even if it’s a little lacking in character. Switzerland and Belarus have plenty of character thanks to charismatic lead singers that overcome other weaknesses.
The longest-priced of these is Belarus. ‘Cheesecake’ isn’t really to fans’ taste but Teo does a wonderful job of selling it on stage. Alongside his male backing dancers, he has turned what could’ve been a Robin Thicke parody into an infectious, tongue-in-cheek three minutes.
I have to add Lithuania to my list of qualifiers because I have crunched the numbers so many times concerning how many points it can usually rely on from its plentiful allies. To put it in context: in Moldova’s case on Tuesday, this exercise resulted in a very borderline 45-47 points; in Lithuania’s case, I come out with 58-60 points in this smaller semi-final. These calculations never work out exactly and if the juries treat ‘Attention’ in the same way as Serbia 2013, that would put enough of those points in jeopardy. But I’m sticking with Vilija.
I have room for one more place and it’s a toss-up between Israel and Poland – take your pick. I worry that female jurors (two in most five-person panels in this semi) and viewers will take against Poland’s blatant smut, but it at least gives ‘My Slowanie’ a USP compared to Israel.
Whilst Mei gives a fine performance, the Hebrew section, terrible draw and uninspired choreography are lead weights she can do without. It’s a bigger price as a non-qualifier, so on a value basis, I’ll put Israel in my non-qualifier list. That list also includes Georgia, Macedonia, Ireland and Slovenia, though I can’t rule out Slovenia after an improved stage performance last night.
Ireland has to be my other recommended bet tonight – at 7-4 with Paddy Power not to qualify. ‘Heartbeat’ has always been a borderliner as a song, and it’s not being sold effectively here. My main problem is not really with Kasey’s adequate vocals, but the disparate elements on stage that fail to work together. I don’t think it comes across as well as Ireland’s much-criticised presentation last year, which was a marginal qualifier.
Good luck to all of you tonight, and continue to let us know your ten qualifiers and main bets in the comments section below.