Latest Specials Tips
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The draw for the final as now been made and Denmark couldn't have wished for it to come out any better. Their position as
favourites has rightly strengthened and anyone beating them in the final will probably be hosting the contest next year.
Touching on the automatic finalists briefly, it is Germany and Italy that are most deserving of a mention. As with Azerbaijan, Italian hopes are boosted by being represented by a good-looking male. Being sung in their native tongue isn't ideal when there has only been one non-English sung winner this century and that this year's biggest semi-final flops - Serbia, Israel and San Marino - weren't performed in English either. One notable positive is that he is an MTV Europe Music Award winner, ensuring something of a fanbase is already in place, and making another top 10 finish likely.
Regarding Germany, the main negative is a distinct similarity to last year's runaway winner. Whilst this evidently isn't ideal, if there is one song to be compared with, that certainly isn't a bad one. On top of this, Cascada are established performers and have already enjoyed success in Europe. Singer Natalie Horler performs the song well and shouldn't suffer from a fairly early final draw to the same degree as ballads do. Marginal odds on for a fourth successive top 10 appearance appeals.
As far as negatives go, this year's Spanish song is completely forgettable and they hardly have a record to write home about, having finished outside the top 20 in five of the previous eight contests. The absence of Portugal and continued absence of Andorra will hinder them badly in terms of natural allies so a wooden spoon could well be on the cards.
Looking through the bookmakers' submarkets, I've attempted to uncover a couple good prices. Anyone watching Romania's semi-final performance won't forget it in a hurry. The first half of Saturday's final has the potential to send more casual viewers to sleep so I wouldn't be at all surprised to see Cezar liven up the proceedings and sneak into the top 10 at tempting odds of 4/1.
Ireland also look a country to keep on side, given they're the final country to perform. The boost this gives is well proven down the years and the market I'm attracted to is Top Western European country. Belgium and France - two of the other four contenders - are complete no hopers so can be dismissed immediatedly. Bonnie Tyler should improve on Humperdinck's 2012 showing somewhat but an upper mid-table finish, as is now likely for Ireland, remains unlikely. To my mind, this leaves a match bet with the Netherlands. As already mentioned, ballads performed early tend to have their finishing position badly compromised. Sporting Bet have already cottoned on, trimming the Irish to 2/1, so take Bet Victor's 4/1 before they inevitably follow suit.
The second Eurovision semi appears more open than Tuesday's and also contains two of the songs that I would expect to challenge
Denmark, Russia and Ukraine in the final.
Georgia's duet may be perceived by some to be too dated to contend. However, duets performed competently have an excellent record - Azerbaijan winning in 2011 and Denmark fourth in 2010 are recent examples - even when not necessarily the best song in the contest. Waterfall is a slow builder but the final minute is very powerful and should be expected to wow the judges in a not dissimilar way to Spain last year. Of course, Georgia have a far greater voting base than the Spanish, recording four top 12 finishes in five years despite never really having a top quality song.
Having nibbled at the 14/1 to win this semi back when markets were first priced up, I am a touch reticent to still be suggesting 11/4 to win on Thursday isn't the worst bet around. Yet a prime draw, 15th of 17 and directly after the contrasting Albanian rock, is perfect. Looking ahead to the final, a running order quite so favourable would be wishful thinking but, given what we know at this stage, 33/1 rates as good each-way value.
The other country I've been most keen to get onside over the last week is Azerbaijan. Initially, I had this nailed on for at least the 5th-8th bracket. The Azeri record is excellent, having never been outside the top eight and making the top five in all of the last four years. Turkey's absence is another positive. It's generally accepted that Azeri-Turk relations are excellent, with a former president decribing them as one nation within two states. As Turkey aren't even taking part this year, the patriotic support of their diaspora should fall to their allies instead, as it almost certainly did when the Turks failed to reach the 2011 final and Azerbaijan were victorious.
Another tick in the Azeri box is quite simply that their song is being sung by a man. It is obviously entirely possible for a female singer to win the contest but, of the top six in the betting, the other five are all female soloists. As such, if the betting order is to be given some credence, his song has few natural rivals vying for the same vote.
Lastly on this particular song, it's back to my initial point about gimmicks. The way the Azeri price has collapsed since their reflection idea was first revealed speaks volumes. From 40/1 pre-rehearsals, we're now looking at no more than 18/1. All things considered and, again, subject to a final draw that isn't too unkind, there is still time to get involved.
Elsewhere in this semi, the more unpredictable nature of the contest is demonstrated by only five songs being shorter than 2/5 to reach the final - there were nine in the semi one. In terms of what could make it through against the odds, I'm drawn to Romania (6/4), Albania (5/4) and Bulgaria (Evens). Romania have a 100% record qualifying for the final and also benefit from being last on stage. The song will undoubtedly divide the audience but being anything other than bland and forgettable - it certainly isn't either of them - should be sufficient to see them into the top 10 of 17 competing for a place in Saturday's final.
Albania's record isn't as good but their song is the only rock number in the semi and should stand out well in contrast to Norway and Georgia on either side. There is little like this in either semi and, although it isn't in the class of maNga who finished second, their success proves that this genre does win votes when done well.
For Bulgaria, drummers Elitsa and Stoyan return to Eurovision, looking to follow up their fifth place finish in 2007. This year's effort isn't to quite the same standard, but doesn't need to be with merely qualifying as the aim.
Eurovision 2013 is this week and, to me, it feels like the year of the gimmick. Gimmicks have been used with varying degrees
of success for many a year but, in a year when there is no standout song, they could prove decisive in deciding where the
contest will headed in 12 months time.
Ukraine are high on the list of participants trying to boost their performance in this way. Many will remember how their use of a sand artist in 2011 catapulted an otherwise entirely forgettable showing to fourth place against all the odds. However going with a 7 foot 8 inch giant to carry their singer on stage this time round is just bizarre and will in no way encourage viewers to pick up the phones in support. Taking the song in isolation it wouldn't make most top ten lists so, despite the obvious voting power they possess, they have to be taken on as second favourites.
Russia are another country who have gone with an odd selling point - a couple of guys with big balls. The song is desperately old fashioned and cliched but it's also risky completely putting a line through their chances, especially at more than twice the odds of their Ukrainian neighbours.
I shouldn't really go further before mentioning Denmark, given they're warm favourites to secure a first win since 2000. It's hard to deny they have a real chance of finishing on top spot and the confetti ending they've chosen to go may have viewers subconsciously thinking 'winner'. Odds of 11/8 don't scream 'must bet' in the way previous runaway winners have though, and certainly not before knowing the final running order, so I'd inclined to look further down the field for contenders.
In terms of the two semi-finals, the first feels the weaker one despite containing three of the top four in the betting. There is no real depth and it is therefore difficult to find enough supposed no hopers to potentially oust one of the big favourites. A case could perhaps be made for Netherlands to fall by the wayside at 7/2, but juries should really carry it over the line.
In total, semi one contains nine songs that are shorter than 1/2 to progress. Really, all nine should oblige so we're left with seven songs contesting a single remaining place in the final. At a push, and given a good draw and a song that should hold some appeal for juries and viewers alike, I'd plump with Belgium to edge it at 9/4. A safer option would be taking on Austria (8/15 not to qualify), Estonia (10/11) and Slovenia (2/9) since none of the three possess natural voting power and all will be performed before the leading trio of Denmark, Russia and Ukraine take to the stage.
On the flip side of that, whilst the perceived big three should all reach the final with ease, it is unlikely that all will make the top three, given there'll be an hour remaining in the show for viewers to be won over by their rivals. A case could be made for Moldova to fill one of the spots at 9/2 but it's Serbia I'd suggest backing at 3/1. Moje 3 sell their song well, to the extent that it wouldn't look out of place as an act at the theatre, rather than at a strip bar which was my initial fear on first seeing this back in March. Once you look past the slightly iffy costumes, juries would be expected to score this highly for originally, whilst Serbia's plum draw will help it win favour with viewers.