Eurovision semi-final 1 betting: Who needs friends?!

With the first rehearsals for semi-final 1 done, we have a reasonable idea of how each song will be presented on stage and it’s time to get stuck into the winners market for this heat.

My first article discussing who will qualify from semi-final 1 argued that four songs were clear of the rest. These were the ‘BAGS’: Belgium, Albania, Greece, Serbia. Nothing I have seen in the taped footage available from escdaily or read on the Eurovision blogs over the last few days changes this opinion.

There are good reasons to think that of these, Belgium is well placed at a best-priced 9-2, with Albania worth at least a saver at 10-1 to win the semi. I have taken both.

Belgium is a Eurovision minnow with a diabolical qualification record. They have no virtually no friends to help them. Albania can only rely on Greece and FYROM. So why do I prefer them to Greece and Serbia, both with more voting allies?

Their relative lack of friends matters less in the semi-final, in which the different voting blocs have been divided equally between the two heats. For example, four of Serbia’s strong allies were placed in the other semi-final as were plenty of Greece’s friends.

It is therefore perfectly possible that Serbia and Greece could beat Albania and Belgium in the final having failed to do so in the semi. This division of voting alliances make it easier for friendless countries to score higher televoting points in the semi.

With the juries also having a 50% say in the points allotted, the playing field has been levelled to some degree, though not entirely. It is always highly speculative to second-guess jury opinion, but the straightforward presentation of both these strong songs should make them highly popular here.

I believe Albania and Belgium have a more universal appeal than the more ethnic sounds from Serbia or Greece, especially in a semi overly full of folk numbers. I’ve made my bets on the basis that these two selections will be getting very high points from everywhere, whilst the Baltic countries amongst others will not be so generous with Serbia or Greece.

I think the rest can be discounted – even when highly regarded by the market. Slovakia is another folk song and a rather ponderous one at that. Iceland’s dated eurodisco is a genre most popular with Denmark, Sweden, Norway and the UK, none of whom are voting in this semi. I remain unconvinced by Belarus on every front, including its presentation.

Backing two entries in the same event is perfectly acceptable in markets like this. I prefer it to one each-way bet. Even taking into account your other bet, the same amount on both still gives you a 7-2 return on Belgium and a 9-1 profit with Albania. Not bad at all when covering two runners in what I believe to be a four-horse race at most.

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