Eurovision 2015: First semi-final preview

Eurovision is upon us. Tonight’s first semi-final contains the usual caveats: there are only 16 countries chasing ten qualifying spots; a points total in the 40s may well be enough; we are likely to get 4-5 jury-only votes; thus a rogue jury score or two could make all the difference between getting through or not. (At least in the final top ten market, there’s a more competitive field of 27, and a points total of at least 70 required.)

With that in mind, here are my thoughts based on watching run-throughs in the press centre this week, including last night’s crucial dress rehearsal which national juries have voted on.

The market sees this semi as a two-horse race between Russia and Estonia, and I think that’s right. Russia are 4/6 favourites and have an awful lot going for them, not least a strong song and performer. This heat is packed with allies and a great slot in the running order is the cherry on the cake. Estonia are 3/1 and without these advantages, but their staging has really come together, and the duet wowed in last night’s rehearsal. I have been dutching both at bigger prices for the semi win, and won’t recommend either at these prices, though I think Estonia offers better value.

I think the two other two certain qualifiers are Greece and Romania, who seem most likely to fight out third place. Both are performed charismatically in a way that elevates their songs, though I thought Romania was pretty melodic in the first place. ‘De la Capat’ has much more genuine gravitas, and that would be my preference for the bronze medal position in this heat.

I wouldn’t rule out Georgia or Belgium grabbing a podium finish, but there are a few uncertainties about both which means I can’t even put them on my definite qualifier list. Georgia’s Nina is ill, which showed in a very flat performance in the first dress rehearsal. Fortunately she was able to raise her game for the juries last night, but I couldn’t go in big on qualification at a short price without seeing how she continues to cope tonight.

I would prefer Belgium’s Loic to tone down some of the more leftfield choreography, but there’s no denying the artistic commitment he’s making here, and it could result in an elevated placing in this semi-final. An early draw and a rather eastern field means I can’t have it in my definite list, but the final would be poorer without it.

That brings us to Armenia which I also have in my probable pile – not based on song, but on allies in this semi. When the song is an unsubtle reference to a highly politicised historical event, it’s handy to have a few Orthodox Christian brethren in your corner, and they’re here in this semi. The sextet were not at their best in last night’s jury rehearsal, and neutrals won’t be persuaded, so I don’t think their place in the final is cut-and-dried.

Three more to qualify, and we’re getting firmly into borderline territory. There are various valid strategies to complete one’s qualifier list and leave six off it: you can take very seriously the highly eastern nature of this semi and base your decision on possible allies; or you can take the approach of discarding what looks cheapest and most amateurish.

I’ve taken the latter approach because when I’ve got qualification calls wrong in the past, it’s often because I’ve been too forgiving of the latter. Also, when you’re on the borderline, you want to be making the value call, rather than playing shorter odds. These two things have informed my decisions.

Hungary is next on my qualifier list. It’s the most professionally performed of the remaining acts and last night’s jury rehearsal reminded me that it can do rather well among this constituency. It’s a decent enough price to do so too. The same things can be said for Denmark, which is why I will also include it in my ten. Finding the final place feels like a coin toss, and I’m going with Belarus, on the basis that there’s enough there, alongside a few allies, to see it squeak through.

My six non-qualifiers come across as either cheap or dull. I can’t rule out Moldova based on some friends and a slick routine in last night’s jury rehearsal, but flashing bum cheeks in PVC hotpants are a red flag. Serbia’s flags aren’t red on stage but the problem comes in the final minute of jazz hands and tomfoolery.

In the dull category comes FYROM, Netherlands, Finland and Albania. These are the four acts that for whatever reason, pass you by with least impact. Finland offers 90 seconds of the same few lines performed in the same way. It’s surprising how quickly any kind of surprise value gives way to tedium. Dull staging of dull songs also hamper the other three.

From this list of qualifiers and non-qualifiers, the longest price is Albania not to qualify at 2/1 on the Betfair Sportsbook. ‘I’m Alive’ just doesn’t come alive on stage at all, partly because it doesn’t give Elhaida a chance to shine. She looks downright uncomfortable performing it, and there’s no hook or indeed much of a chorus to persuade televoters or juries to give it their approval.

Good luck with your own bets tonight, and keep your thoughts coming below.

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65 comments to Eurovision 2015: First semi-final preview

  • Montell

    My NQ list in order of confidence:
    1. Finland
    2. Moldova
    3. Serbia
    4. Hungary
    5. Macedonia
    6. Albania

    I still think Netherlands could qualify because I had good impression when I first heard the song. I think the song is sincere and memorable.

    I think Belarus or Netherlands will take 10th place.

    Have a good time watching Eurovision, fellows.

  • Good luck Daniel and everyone else. I’ve found it tricky to come up with a list of ten but here it is;


    Albania feels very borderline though.

    • 9/10 correct!!! An extremely good night for me despite a monster lay on Serbia. And now Russia has flip flopped with Italy….

      • chewy wesker

        Denmark What a gutter!!! I got 8/10! in-running market knew about Serbia???!!! Your sitting pretty with Russia second half draw, second in the betting now Polina has been without doubt the best performer. I loaded up on russia in and around 40’s. Sure to pick up points on the night can’t rule out the win now.

        • The Ferret

          Cant believe Denmark either – they performed strongly yet during the song their price just drifted … for no apparent reason other than it is clear they were friendless

        • Donal Ryan

          Lol…. I thought you might after your ‘Bingo’ moment…. Can’t believe it stayed at 40’s for 5 weeks

  • This is my call for SF1:

    NQ: Armenia, Netherlands, Finland, Serbia, Belarus, Albania

  • John

    I think Albania may be the surprise fail also. The song really lacks something for me and reports of poor performers are a bad sign too. 2/1 though, hmmmm….

  • Alen

    I predict the NQ to be:


    I think Albania will qualify…….and I also think the 10th place will be between the Netherlands and Belarus.

  • NQ list – Finland, Netherlands, Serbia, Belarus, Moldova, Albania.
    netherlands and belarus stood out inthe jury semi final as weak, and Albania really passed by at that point as a song and performance with nothing apart from a bit of screeching.

    if Moldova get in, its likely at Armenias expense

  • john kef

    My Semi Final 1 estimations are: (Q/NQ – Finishing Place)

    1. Moldova NQ / 14-16 ( Mediocre song- bad slot)
    2. Armenia Q / 7-10 ( Diaspora – many allies)
    3. Belgium Q/ 4-6 ( Innovative song)
    4. Netherlands NQ / 14-16 (Dreadful song -no allies-bad slot)
    5. Finland NQ / 11-13 (Dreadful song -no allies-bad slot)
    6. Greece Q / 4-6 ( Many allies- powerful song)
    7. Estonia Q / 2 ( Appealing song- Voting magnet)
    8. Macedonia NQ / 14-16 ( Badly staged)

    9. Serbia Q / 7-10 (If Conchita made it last year, she has a chance of qualifying)

    10. Hungary Q / 7-10 ( Well staged – Peace message)
    11. Belarus NQ / 11-13 ( Repetitive- Lacking energy)

    12. Russia Q / 1 (Shut up and take my money !!! )

    13. Denmark NQ / 11-13 ( Commercial break- After Russia- no allies…needless to say more)

    14. Albania Q / 7-10 ( 4/6 from the last 6 songs rules applies- Quality song)

    15. Romania Q / 3 ( Smartly staged- Diaspora- Broad appeal to the eastern countries with immigration problems)

    16. Georgia Q / 4-6 ( Pimp slot- Powerful song)

  • Ben Cook

    Clip from Albania

    No chance she’s getting through based on that

  • chewy wesker



    Denmark is my TIP to make the final trading at 2.2 at time of posting, Good Luck to all at Sofabet taking a punt tonight.

  • Tonight I’m going with Albania and Finland NQ. No other real liquidity tonight unless you’re massively loaded.

  • Ben Cook

    My prediction:

    01 Russia
    02 Estonia
    03 Greece
    04 Romania
    05 Hungary
    06 Georgia
    07 Belgium
    08 Moldova
    09 Belarus
    10 Armenia
    11 Denmark
    12 Albania
    13 Serbia
    14 FYR Macedonia
    15 Netherlands
    16 Finland

    • Chris Bellis

      I like your list Ben. Agree with it but I’d put Hungary way further down and Finland further up. A learnign disabled thrash metal band is enough of a novelty to attract votes, however bad people here think the song is. Hungary will get lost amidst the others. Very anodyne and old fashioned.

  • Russia
    The Netherlands

    As the qualifiers for me… However I feel that I’ve done my money on Macedonia

    Saying that I’m almost certain that Finland cannot qualify and as long as they don’t I’ll make a profit.

    I also cannot see Denmark not qualifying, the song is too good compared to most in this semi

    Longer version of my feelings towards this semi-final –>

  • Sander

    I always get the feeling that the more ‘extreme’ things in the show get canceled out by either the jury or televote. Slovenia 2014 had a nice staging and it wasn’t a very good song, but it also wasn’t very bad. It had a good draw so it got through. Macedonia 2014 had a memorable song and staging but the dancer was just weird and the singer did not look girl next door to me. So for my qualifiers I try to look at the staging, the singing and the overall impression I get looking at the singer and the clothes etc.

    My prediction:

    1. Moldova NQ. Most distasteful performance of the evening. Borderling in televote, not enough jury support to let it qualify.

    2. Armenia Q if Boom Boom almost got through and Armenia never missed a final besides 2011, they obviously will go to the final this year.

    3. Belgium Q Very bad position in running order , modern song and well sung but I don’t see enough Western support. I think this could be the Estonia 2014 and Israel 2014 this year but maybe they will scrape through in 9th.

    4. Netherlands Q More accessible than Armenia and Belgium for neutral viewers. Good voice and more charisma than Belgium and Moldova. I think it could scrape through in 10th because it’s catchy.

    5. Finland NQ Just awful. Not as fun as Russian Granny and no likeabele singers. Even if it’s in televote top 10 the juries will butcher it. Result comparable to 2010 I think.

    6. Greece Q. They always qualify. Tasteful performance and good vocals.

    7. Estonia Q Very modern song you could hear on the radio. Nice staging and memorable because it’s a duet.

    8. Macedonia NQ Won’t get enough televote support. Backings make it worse.

    9. Serbia NQ Staging of the last minute just does not convince me.

    10. Hungary Q Though I don’t like it, I think it’s a heal the world, Finland 2011 type of song with a decent draw. The last couple of years they qualified with worse songs though I think 2013 had a more likeable performer who was nerdy cute.

    11. Belarus NQ Staging doesn’t make it better. They needed something extra. At least 2014 had a more memorable chorus.

    12. Russia Q Good song and it’s Russia.

    13. Denmark Q Can appeal to a lot of different viewers and it sounds current because it reminds you of songs you heard before and liked. And 4 of last 6 qualify applies. If they miss out I think Belarus will get enough support.

    14. Albania NQ Has nothing going for it. Even if she tries to sell it like San Marino 2014 did, this won’t get enough support to get through.

    15. Romania Q They always do and it’s the penultimate slot.

    16. Georgia Q Even in 2012 it was in the jury top 10 and 2014 was just afwful and whacky. So this year they will defnitely qualify.

  • Ron H.

    My prediction:

    01 Russia
    02 Estonia
    03 Greece
    04 Georgia
    05 Romania
    06 Armenia
    07 Belgium
    08 Netherlands
    09 Serbia
    10 Hungary

    FYR Macedonia

  • Martin F.

    After a week in the press centre and a day and a bit poolside, this is what my gradually unwinding brain has come up with in terms of bet recommendations for tonight:

    Hi to Daniel and the rest of the “gamblers’ table” in Vienna – miss you guys!

  • Chatterbox5200

    My Semi Final 1 predictions:
    1. Russia
    2. Estonia
    3. Romania
    4. Greece
    5. Belgium
    6. Hungary
    7. Georgia
    8. Denmark
    9. Armenia
    10. Albania

    Non- Qualifiers
    11. Belarus
    12. FYR Macedonia
    13. Serbia
    14. Netherlands
    15. Finland
    16. Moldova

  • andy

    why the hell odds on Finland are droping… 2.1 to qualify ??? I can’t believe it

  • Donald

    Good luck to all, been too busy , BUT thanks to Daniel tweets up to speed, win bets overall running, will catch up..

  • Montell

    After I saw the show my NQ list is this:

    I’m least sure about Serbia now. Also I think that Belarus rocked! Macedonia didn’t look as bad as I expected. Winner of the semi is either Estonia or Russia.

  • A neutral bag for me tonight with Finland’s failure saving me from a loss.

    Sweden’s had a bit of a price crash so now is a good time to top up. I’m saying them on the nose, Russia and Australia each way.

    • Donald

      Hi James, been busy all week, I would exercise serious caution on Sweden on the nose, I will do a piece tomorrow. I will be on the gig tomorrow night.

      • Reckon Russia’s gonna come in and nail this, or is Australia still a contender, especially given the pimping last night. Was there any extra pimping on the EBU feed that the UK audience missed for the BBC Three crap?

  • initially I thought that Serbia might have had a big result, with the price crash and the “fan” reaction. However, checking the itunes charts and it seems Belgium is the big result. Called last, but I think it might have got top 3

  • The Ferret

    serbia was backed into 20’s but in the last few minutes it has crashed out to 80 …. Belgium backed to 40s but now 85 …. reckon neither made top 3 – someone who knows has been punting on Betfair!

    • john kef

      It’s just the draw. Got bets and then came the 1st half draw for both and end of story…that simple

      • The Ferret

        ahhh — that would also apply to Estonia then (see below)

        • yeah all about those first half draws. i would imagine estonia will perform at the end of 1st half. not ideal, but i wouldnt go laying it in any of the top markets

          • john kef

            If you see one of the strong songs that were drawn in the first half of the final appearing before the No 10 slot you can write them off.

            Since 1998 that the televoting was introduced, only Israel 1998 (8), Turkey 2003 (4), Ukraine 2004 (10) and Austria 2014 (10) were winners from the first half. As you can see the two of them ( Dana, Conchita) were phenomenon…

          • John, of course, but with the producers now picking the order and knowing how they did in the semi, I would think they wouldn’t put it too early. I meant top 3,4,5,10 markets rather than outright also, when I said top markets

          • john kef

            Agree with you Dash! my estimation would be a pack of strong entries one after another to slots 10-14 then the weak songs of the second half and then the favourites to slots 21-27

  • The Ferret

    i would also say – judging by the rapid drift in last few minutes – that Estonia failed to break top 3 (or at least did not finish 2nd) – kinda ruling it out of win candidacy

  • Montell

    Serbia now favorite in Top Balkan market. You got to be kidding me, right?

    • Alen

      Surely that would change when (if?!) slovenia qualifies.

      I liked it but I can’t see the jury voting for it, very sure the televoting saved it.

      Very surprised a bout Hungary, I just find it dull and I’m waiting to see where this pulled on televoting. A bit sad about Belarus but the staging was boring too. Knew Albania would make it.

      Surely Russia easily won this Semi with Estonia and hopefully Belgium finishing the top3.

      • Donal Ryan

        As Russia went 1/4 after the final and Estonia 4/1, I think a Russia win is safe enough. itunes suggest Estonia and Belgium were 2 and 3.
        Serbia is the new Finland, I think Romania at 6/1 has a decent shot at best Balkan

        • Agree with that, certainly looks like it finished Russia, Estonia, Belgium.
          iTunes charts are interesting as they show virtually no support for Serbia. If the juries gave it some love in the SF, it will be much harder to award much in the final against many more better songs.

        • Spot on about the Romanians Donal – i agree – even at their current price of 5/1 they look value. there was some 8/1 about earlier

  • Montell

    It’s gonna be difficult for Sweden to get into 2nd half. So many places are already taken.

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