With my escgo! colleagues having kept you informed and entertained over the last week (and a bit) with their analysis of the rehearsals and staging from this year’s Eurovision Song Contest in Stockholm, it’s time for me to dive into my own area of – supposed – expertise and look at some of the more interesting betting options when it comes to this year’s competition. Starting, logically enough, with tonight’s first semi-final!
I’ll be using decimal rather than fractional odds in my three betting pieces this week; to help you understand what that means, I’ll refer you to Daniel Gould’s guide at the ever-excellent Sofabet – and I’ll try to give you a few examples as we go along, too.
It’s worth noting that there aren’t too many interesting betting markets on what you might call the “high street” bookmaker websites this year, so there’ll be a lot of references to Betfair in these pieces – again, Daniel has a guide to betting exchanges that says it better than I ever could. And as always, you can get a comprehensive overview of the odds that are available at the comparison site, Oddschecker.
So without further ado, I’ve selected five bets that you might want to take a look at for tonight’s first semi-final, based on the insights we’ve gained from the rehearsal reports and videos over recent days (as well as plain common sense and mathematics). Full disclosure: if you’d bet on all of my recommendations in 2015 across the three shows, you would have made a very real, but admittedly modest profit – it’s still up to you to try and see the forest for the trees!
Here goes with my suggestions for semi 1, then:
- Russia to win the semi-final. I made exactly the same recommendation for Polina last year, and while Sergey Lazarev’s odds to win the semi tonight are even less generous – currently a mere 1.3 with sites including Skybet – but when you look at the demographics of the countries who’ll be voting, Sergey’s star quality and the fact that none of the other bookmakers’ favourites for overall victory this year (France, Sweden, Ukraine and co.) are in the first semi-final with him, you’d have to say that this looks like absolutely free money. It’s certainly a more effective return than any savings account out there.
- Hungary to fail to qualify. The markets aren’t altogether sure about who will qualify from tonight’s semi-final, with twelve songs currently sporting odds of less than 1.9 to make a repeat appearance on Saturday night. What this does mean is that there’s value to be had in the non-qualification market. The odds of 2.4 on Croatia’s Nina Kraljić to flop tonight are certainly tempting – “Lighthouse” is disastrously staged from a fashion point of view, but I think the song itself might still be strong enough to qualify. Similarly, the price of 4 for Cyprus is attractive. Minus One fail to convince as an authentic and real rock band, either visually or vocally, but “Alter Ego” should still have enough mainstream appeal in its own schlager-rock niche to make it through an 18-song semi-final. With that in mind, the best-value NQ candidate for me is Hungary’s Freddie: “Pioneer” has always had the air of a borderliner about it, the staging in the rehearsals hasn’t been hugely convincing, and it’ll only need one or two of his direct competitors to perform to the best of their potential for the odds of 3.25 (BoyleSports) to suddenly become nicely profitable.
- Bosnia and Herzegovina to qualify. As mentioned, there isn’t a huge amount of value in this market, but I would be looking at taking the odds of 1.62 (various sites) for the Bosnians to continue their perfect qualification record at the semi-final stage. Dalal and Deen will be challenging viewers with a less than cohesive staging concept, and there’s a rap towards the end that doesn’t really fit proceedings very well, but there’s always a market for this kind of efficient and tightly harmonised Balkan melody at the Eurovision Song Contest – and you bet against Bosnia and its active friends and diaspora at your peril.
- Armenia to miss the top 3. This involves laying Armenia in the “top 3” market at Betfair (currently at odds of 1.5, although it fluctuates all the time, so do check!). I’ll explain my logic here: I think “LoveWave” is somewhat overrated as a song anyway, and the semi-finals often favour songs that are a little bit safer, with jury favourites tending to pop up towards the top end of the scoreboard even if they subsequently do very little in the final. While it’s tempting to bet on the entries that will benefit from this trend (the Czech Republic, Malta, the Netherlands and Iceland all spring to mind), it can be safer to bet on what won’t happen, rather than having to make a choice between them – and in this case, I think Armenia’s quite difficult song and dark performance could struggle to reach the podium tonight. It certainly seems worth a punt at the odds that are available, anyway.
- Finland to finish last in the semi-final. Last place is always a bit of a risky market, because you never quite know how the jury and televote combination will stack up. Take last year’s first semi-final, for example: disabled Finnish punkers PKN would have qualified on televoting alone, whereas they received just one point (!) from the juries, a fact that condemned them to last place overall. The favourite to finish last tonight is San Marino, quite understandably, but they always have some jury support and there are televoters who might fall for Serhat’s retro disco stylings; next in line is Moldova, with odds of just 3.0 at best for Lidia Isac and her dancing astronaut. Those two entries are undoubtedly hopeless, but regardless, I’m going to suggest a slightly more profitable punt on Finland to get a second consecutive last place at generous current odds of 15.0 (Betfair Sportsbook). “Sing It Away” is the kind of song that juries might go for a little, but it’s a weak entry, blandly performed and marooned at the start of a weak opening to the running order. We’ve seen before that the first song to perform can easily be forgotten and finish in last place – think Latvia’s PeR in 2013, or Magdalena Tul from Poland in 2011 – and I can see the same fate befalling Finland’s Sandhja tonight assuming all the fellow no-hopers at least pick up some points.
And there we go! Please note that the odds quoted above were correct at the time of writing but can change all the time, so do check and adjust your approach accordingly. Also, bear in mind that the full results of the semi-final won’t be published until after Saturday’s grand final, so only bets on qualification/non-qualification will be paid out after tonight’s show – you’ll have to wait for the rest.
Obviously nothing is certain in what Harald Treutiger once called “the greatest game show in the world”, but whatever happens, we hope you have a fun betting experience and a great semi-final night!