After today’s semi-final allocation draw, Eurovision season is properly underway. You can see which countries are in each semi-final here. 39 countries take part this year, which is two more than in 2014: Serbia, Cyprus and the Czech Republic return; Ukraine has withdrawn. That means 16 entrants in the first semi-final and 17 in the second semi-final, which should hopefully see a slight general improvement in qualifying odds.
Some early thoughts about the allocation draw are below, alongside an update of the entries chosen so far and what’s to come. This reflects a change to our traditional pre-rehearsal coverage. Instead of long-form pieces on the bookmakers’ contenders (which didn’t include initial outsiders Austria and the Netherlands last year), we will provide regular updates on all the most recently chosen entries and national finals of interest.
Back to that semi-final allocation draw, and there’s not too much to be gleaned at this stage. The first semi-final has fewer entrants but three of the four countries with a 100% qualifying record (Greece, Romania and Russia), plus other big hitters Serbia and Armenia.
The various blocs have split relatively evenly, as is the intention. If I had to name one delegation that will be pleased, it’s Armenia with Spain, France, Greece, Netherlands, Belgium, Belarus, Russia and Georgia (plus no Azerbaijan) voting in the first heat.
Moving on to the songs themselves, we’ve already heard selections from Georgia, Albania, Belarus, France, FYROM, Malta and the Netherlands. You can expect some of them to go through revisions: Albania’s FiK winner needs to be shortened, FYROM will reportedly be in English, and Belarus has in the past made big changes to arrangement or even song from their national final.
It’s not exactly an inspiring bunch of initial entries: I think the Dutch song is a disappointment after their excellent entries of the last two years; I find the French song dated; and in their current form, the numbers from Belarus, Georgia, FYROM and Malta elicit only a shrug of my shoulders. A revamped Albanian song, with powerhouse vocals guaranteed from a winner of Italy’s The Voice, holds most potential for denting the Vienna scoreboard.
Coming up, the Nordic national finals are often the most competitive, with bookmakers’ odds usually on offer. They begin this Saturday with the first Icelandic semi-final. You can listen to all the songs here – it’s an interesting selection. The same day witnesses the Swiss final, watch the six finalists here, with the Cypriot final (songs here) the following day.
The following Saturday, February 7, is the first big one for Eurovision punters. Denmark conducts its final – the songs and running order were officially announced this morning and you can find them here. It’s a typical Danish bunch of middle-of-the-road, radio-friendly pop, though nothing looks like repeating their 2013 success. A Betfair market has just opened on it.
Semi-finals also begin in Sweden and Estonia. The month-long Swedish contest, Melodifestivalen, is the biggest and most competitive of the lot, and the first heat sees the return of 2011 Eurovision bronze-medallist Eric Saade. The Estonian competition is usually more varied, and added interest comes from the most hyped song to be heard so far, ‘Goodbye to Yesterday‘ by Eliona Born and Stig Rasta. They are the reason Estonia tops the very early Betfair outright market for Vienna, and they will perform in the second Estonian heat on February 14.
The Finnish selection, UMK, starts the same day, and we already know the songs, with Unibet currently offering a market. Odds-on favourites are Pertti Kurikan Nimipaivat, a Finnish punk band made up of adults with intellectual disabilities. Those odds reflect the initial domestic buzz, though in my view, the two strongest songs are the One Direction-esque offering from Satin Circus and Siru’s ballad.
Do let us know your thoughts on any of the above and more below. And welcome back to Eurovision season on Sofabet!