Eurovision has more twists than a soap opera. Yesterday I had a deadline to write an article elsewhere, and tipped The Netherlands for a top three position in this semi-final at a value price, before Douwe Bob’s silent ten seconds fell rather flat in the jury rehearsal. It’s not a positive development, though I don’t believe it will affect qualification.
Russia are hot favourites to win the semi-final, with Armenia clear second favourites. Both offer striking visual and vocal packages, and will be in the final. It’s a very friendly semi for Russia, the routine is peaking at the right time, and I envisage Sergey following up Polina’s semi-final victory last year.
As mentioned before, I felt like The Netherlands offered good prospects at juicy odds to place. Middle-of-the-road entries such as this one often score very well at this stage, when competition for jury points is less fierce. The examples that spring to mind – Sjonni’s Friends, Paradise Oscar, Simon Matthew, Hotel FM – all finished in the top four in their respective semi-finals, arguably with packages not as strong as this one. But the long pause has been awkward and incongruous in an otherwise strong set of performances for the dress rehearsals.
Following the same line of thinking, an alternative to place at a double-digit each-way price has been Iceland. I wasn’t the greatest fan of ‘Hear Them Calling’ in its national final guise. But the way it’s been tweaked for the Eurovision stage is nothing but positive. Greta takes time out from the projection wall to engage with the cameras, looks more relaxed and in better voice than she was in 2012, and the routine works very well with the song.
There’s a bit of competition in the middle of the qualifying places. Cyprus has come together nicely, and was at its strongest for the jury rehearsal last night. I think it’s a highly probable qualifier. I will say the same about Malta, although I don’t think it should be as short as it is to do so. Ira has the pimp slot amongst other things in her favour, despite being lumbered with the uninspired melody of ‘Walk on Water’.
Moving into slightly less confident territory, the Czech Republic should also be placing highly with juries after another strong vocal performance from Gabriela Guncikova last night. She just needs to find the cameras more often, and was keeping her eyes shut too much in this afternoon’s dress rehearsal.
Next up, I’m thinking that Bosnia will also be in the final. In the last two years, Montenegro have marginally qualified with an earnest Balkan number. This year’s Bosnian effort is a little more disjointed, but the country’s diaspora and regional reach is of greater significance. Most of all, it’s a very competent performance in a semi-final that offers plenty of incompetence.
Eight down, and I feel like we’re moved into borderline territory already, which is an indication that this is a tricky semi-final, more difficult to call than either of last year’s heats. With that in mind, let’s get the biggest also-rans out of the way whilst bearing in mind the ability of Eurovision to shock.
San Marino, Montenegro and Finland top the list, closely followed by Moldova, then Greece. The last-named have a 100% qualifying record, but this year represents a perfect storm of unhelpful song, poor female vocals, bad starting position, and fewer voting allies than usual. As such, ‘Utopian Land’ goes in my NQ pile.
Despite its charm, I’m going to place Austria in that pile too. At this point nearer the borderline, I find myself turning to instinct. My gut has marked this down as a non-qualifier since the national final, on the basis that its repetitive and twee nature goes down better with fans than it does with other televoters, and juries.
To complete my ten qualifiers, that leaves two from four out of Hungary, Croatia, Azerbaijan and Estonia. I am going to make one choice from Hungary and Croatia, because otherwise we have The Netherlands at sixth to perform being the first to qualify. I will go for Hungary as they have come across slightly more strongly all week, even though Nina improved for last night’s jury rehearsal.
The other choice is between Estonia and Azerbaijan, to maintain the “at least four from the last six” pattern that has been the case for every semi-final since 2009. Juri Pootsmann was in better form for last night’s jury rehearsal, but then so was Azerbaijan’s Samra from the very low bar she had set herself in other rehearsals. It was blow to Estonia’s chances and a boost to Azerbaijan’s that the Russian jury result will be allowed to stand, as presumably this will be in Samra’s favour. It may just get Azerbaijan over the line.
All in all, it’s a rather confusing picture, and stakes should bear this in mind. I’ve given an analysis behind my ten qualifiers, but don’t feel like any offer standout value to recommend as a tip. Good luck to everybody chancing the betting market tonight, and keep your comments coming below.