It’s 60th anniversary of the Eurovision Song Contest on Saturday night. Vienna is the host city after a landslide win for Austria last year by Conchita Wurst.
It’s a bit of a deviation from horse racing for this blog but an event where I have some experience. I’ve spent every year this millennium compiling and trading odds for 2 major bookmakers firms. This year I won’t be such a slave to the computer screen and so can put pen to paper for a few thoughts from the other side of the fence – and share some betting angles.
The show is in its current format since 2008 with most having to qualify through two semi finals held on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. Last year’s winner is already booked a place – as are the ‘Big 5’ (UK, Spain, Italy, Germany, France) who are the biggest financial contributors to the European Broadcasting Union who pay for the event. There’s an added twist this year with the automatic inclusion of Australia to the final too – part of the 60th anniversary celebrations. The event has a huge following down under.
Half of the voting is done by televoting and half by professional jury. At least that is the plan – occasionally it’s 100% of one. Probably most famously Monaco competed in the event recently and not one person bothered to pick up the phone and vote in the semi-final!
I’ll run through each of the entries later but let’s first look at some of the key factors involved in trying to find a winner (with a few vintage clips thrown in to make the experience all the more pleasant !)
Well this is a ‘song contest’ after all but blindly backing what you think is the best song you have heard is a way to the poorhouse here! Having a good song will help but there are other facets to this competition which bear just if not more as much influence and which must be factored in. The shows history is littered with some very good songs which didn’t come close to winning as they just couldn’t get the votes.
France’s ‘Je N’Ais Que Mon Ame’ remains one of the best songs never to win in my view finishing only 4th in 2001. It just shows what a struggle it will be for the French to ever win this
There’s a long running ‘love-in’ when it comes to voting with certain countries. Professional juries have been reintroduced in recent years to try to reduce this bias – but it doesn’t seem to work properly in some cases.
The mutual admiration of 12 pts between Greece and Cyprus is well-known; Scandinavian countries, Balkan countries, Baltic States and former Russian countries can all be expected to favour one another with friendly (‘diaspora’) voting. It’s the countries that are outside these blocs – predominantly the Western/Southern Europeans that suffer as they just don’t have these allies to rely on. Their only hope is to come up with something totally different that just grabs the attention more than the opposition. If they don’t they have very little chance to make an impact on the competition
There have been two winners recently which have done the latter – Austria last year and Finland in 2006. Both won easily and were the focus of press attention in the run-up to the final as they were so different. And both were from countries who would struggle to make an impact under normal circumstances
It’s a huge factor what position a country gets to sing from.
Too early often spells doom and songs could likely be forgotten by the time voting starts.
To highlight this here is the draw of the first four songs in the competition going back to 2005
It should become quickly apparent there is a distinct lack of single figure numbers present here.
Given that 100 songs have been drawn from 1-10 in these years from 249 total songs we would expect 40% of them to appear in this list if this were a level playing field
The fact is that 8 of them appear which is 3.2% – illustrating just how bad this affects their chances
Being drawn last is also a big no. I would think the news that is the last song sends many to switch the kettle on while this is being sung since we have to go back to Denmark’s 2nd place in 2001 from being drawn last to see a song in the top 4 (* I cannot include the same country’s 4th from draw 25 in 2010 as Spain got to sing after them after a ‘pitch invasion’ on their first performance)
Austria won from 11 last year but it’s from 17 onwards that the golden numbers appear with 17,18 and 19 winning 6 out of the 10 times.
Who wants to win it?
The ‘Song for Europe’ episode of Father Ted isn’t far off the mark in some cases. In that Ireland tried to come up with the worst entry they could (the fabulous ‘My Lovely Horse’ ) so they couldn’t win and didn’t have to pay for the competition. It’s a hark back to the days when Ireland were winning the event too many times for their own comfort.
Nowadays, with financial crisis in some countries, it might be considered a bit of a disaster for some to win and have to fund the hosting next year.
Odds of the winning song.
Denmark’s ‘Fly on the Wings of Love’ was as high as 80/1 before the competition started in 2000. That was in the days before social media and betting exchanges came to the fore so the chances of such big prices winning again are virtually nil.
In those days it was a job and a half to get to hear much of any of the songs before the contest – and a preview programme the week before might have been the only chance to see the entry.
Nowadays, there is a constant market on Betfair as soon as country’s make their selections odds start to move. The venue will have many excellent bloggers reviewing performance through all of the rehearsals – and the better ones of these will influence the markets accordingly. Youtube and The Semi Finals themselves also provide many televisual clues
Last year’s 1-2, Austria and Netherlands were both possible to back on Betfair at over 100/1 in the weeks running up to the competition. However, their cover had been well and truly blown by the day of the Final and they were single figure odds.
In the last 10 years as Social Media has evolved it has meant that there are no real big shocks when it comes to odds anymore. I can only recall Finland being around the 10/1 mark in 2006 on the day before the event. The rest have all been single figure prices.
Finland’s win was a bit of a triumph for me at the time so I have no shame in giving it a reprise
Each way betting.
This isn’t a factor in picking the song but it certainly can be in placing a bet. I’m a big advocate of using each way betting to get more value on horse racing and I really can’t stress enough the edge that can be had by using each way to your advantage on this event.
In the belief that this is a wide open event with 27 runners, some firms will be offering 1/4 odds 1234. It’s here where most value can be had
To put this in horse racing terms you would get this in a handicap with 16 or more runners – the type of race that would be very competitive and most if not all of the runners would have some chance to win.
Here, although there are plenty of ‘runners’ the actual number that have a realistic chance of doing well is normally somewhat less than 10 and – a scenario in horse racing that would lend itself more to a race where only 3 places would be paid and at 1/5th of the win odds
A prime example currently available on Thursday lunchtime is Russia. Bet 365 offer 4/1 with 1/4 odds 1234. That means the place part for them to finish in the first 4 is Evens. The win part of this at 4/1 is perfectly fine but a quick look at Betfair’s exchange reveals the true price of them finishing in the first 4 isn’t far above 1/2 right now. There will be other such examples for sure.
Current odds can be found here: http://www.oddschecker.com/tv/eurovision/winner
FRIDAY UPDATE – THE DRAW IS DONE
And what a strange draw it is making the situation no clearer!
The overall standard of the semi finals is lower for me this year and consequently some quite uninspiring songs have managed to qualify.
Most catchy up tempo numbers have found themselves in the first half of the draw while the slow burning ones are more in the bottom half. The ‘Golden’ Draw numbers I previously alluded to have been filled by big outsiders so we don’t have an entrant that is standing out on the stats so much. The winner is quite likely to be one that isn’t quite in line with previous draw trends.
The second half of the competition does have some danger of turning into a snoozefest and I can see myself having quite a long ‘tea break’ between 17 and 25. If others feel the same it could have a detrimental effect on the two late contenders who do have some chance
And so onto the contenders (in draw order) :
Not a country with a great record. Nusa Derenda’s Energy was one of the favourites in 2001 and remains their best result at 7th. They seldom reach top 10 if they qualify at all. I’m not much taken by the singer wearing headphones throughout and it all sounds a bit tinny. Struggling to reach top 10 again for me
As previously mentioned France will always have a mountain to climb to win this. They were last in 2014 and have finished in the bottom 5 six times in the last 10 years (they haven’t won since 1977) . There are good reports of the song in rehearsals so it may be able to climb out of the fight for the minor berths but a top 10 place would still be as much as they could hope for
The beat moves up a notch now with a fun, lively song that the crowd enjoyed in the semi. Nadav is particularly memorable for his golden trainers and the lyric ‘but before you leave let me show you Tel Aviv’! Israel won twice in the 1970s and then in 1998 with Dana International. They have had only one notable result since when the excellent Shiri Maimon managed 4th in 2005 (best song by far that year in my view). This is the first time they have even managed to qualify since 2010 and their struggle to get friendly votes should weigh them down again. Top 10 again about the best they can hope for.
One of the early favourites but price is gradually drifting on this one with a fairly poor draw not helping them. Estonia do benefit from friendly votes from the Baltic neighbours but it hasn’t been since 2001 when they achieved their only victory (two 6th place finishes in past 10 years). Stig and Elina’s song is quite pleasant but there isnt a lot of chemistry between the pair for me and at one point Elina did look a bit like a startled rabbit caught in the headlights. It may get a top 10 – but for me only just.
Katrina and the Waves were the UK’s last winners in 1997 but the inclusion of so many Eastern European countries since then has scuppered what hopes they have had. In the last 10 years it has only been the intervention of Andrew Lloyd Webber (5th in 2009) that has seen a top 10 finish and there have been 3 last place finishes since 2000. They don’t seem to have put much effort into a selection procedure again this year and judged on reports from rehearsals this one could be another contender for the wooden spoon ( I have heard the phrase ‘car crash’ mentioned ).
UK to get ‘nil ‘points as they did with Jemini in 2003 is not a complete no hoper but they can usually rely on Ireland to come to the rescue and give them some fruit for their labours. There is a potential booby trap as well. Scooch’s awful ‘Flying The Flag’ should have been last in 2007 but not only did Ireland give a crazy 7 – Malta gave it 12 as a protest at the amount of friendly voting!
Competing only since 2006 but a combination of good songs and diaspora voting has seen a couple of 4th places in that time. This time their song is much weaker for me and I think top 10 is unlikely
The beat of the song is good but that’s as good as it gets – Monika and Vaidas come across far too treacly about their love for one another for a sourpuss like me and the sickbucket should be kept nearby. It will get some votes from its neighbours no doubt. Lithuania have the weakest record of the Baltic states in this event with only one top 10 place in 16 attempts
Fairly unheralded coming into the contest but this entertaining and catchy performance by Bojana was like a breath of fresh air in quite a dull semi. It really cranks up a notch half way through when the dancers complete their metamorphosis. The Serbs have a decent record here, benefitting from neighbours votes in the past (they can’t rely on Bosnia or Croatia this time though), winning in 2007. Their semi performance may well have been enhanced by having less up tempo songs around it and an early half draw along with other such songs won’t be a help (Sweden and Australia shortly after).
Now I have to admit this duet is my favourite song this year – similar to Estonia but much classier and with chemistry this time. A later draw would have got me more excited but I can still see it doing well with the jury vote. I am concerned about its proximity to Sweden in the draw though and hope it doesnt miss out too much in the public vote as a result. Still good each way possibilities though to reach top 4. Norway can call on Scandinavian voting support – they won in 2009 with the strong favourite ‘Fairytale’ – but have also been in the top 10 on five other occasions since 2003.
Sweden’s Melodifestivalen is usually one of the strongest selection procedures in Europe and so its no surprise they often do well in this contest (friendly votes likely as well). They have won it 5 times and in the last 4 years there has been one win and two third places.
They have been favourite for this for some time since one of their top names, Mans Zelmerlow, qualified with ‘Heroes’. The price shortened again after the semis but increased slightly after the draw became known.
The song, while it has its merits, is the weakest part of the package for me. It’s the performance of Mans allied to holographic special effects that makes it stand out. In 2008, Ukraine exceeded all expectations for an 80/1 to be 4th and it was all largely down to a sand artist performing alongside the singer. It’s the biggest illustration for me of how something like this can really sell a song and Sweden is no 80/1 shot coming in here.
Hard to envisage Sweden finishing outside of the top 4. In most years I would think the song is beatable but in a substandard one it might just have enough to prevail despite the draw
A nice enough song well performed by Giannis but it has probably been swamped by those around it in the draw now. We have to go back to 2004 to fins a top 10 finish for Cyprus and unlikely they can match that now
This year’s wildcard who get to compete for the 60th anniversary. We have no voting patterns to relate to here but there should be plenty of votes coming in still as this has got so much coverage. It’s another up-tempo number and one of the better songs in the contest for sure from Guy Sebastian. I can’t see it winning but a top 10 is likely.
Something is afoot in the betting world today that has sent the price crashing on this one from around 25/1 at midnight last night to a high of 6/1 as I write. There are rumours that it did very well in the semis but while there have been other supposed leaks in the past there was only one that I recall proved 100% correct (Eurovision mistakenly advertised too early that Romania had won their semi in 2005 an hour before the show on their own website).
If they have won their semi then it’s certainly worth getting involved as it would put them ahead of the much vaunted Russia – but until I see such a confirmation I find the current price excessively skinny.
While it’s not my type of song (epileptics beware with the flashing light display!) I have to respect it is trending well on Twitter and is very popular on iTunes.
Belgium has competed 57 times but only won once back in 1986. Nowadays, they usually don’t qualify from the semis but they did manage 6th in 2010 – their only top 10 finish since 2003.
Under normal circumstances I would be a layer of their current top 10 price on Betfair of 1.18 – but it’s hard to go out on a limb too much here with the suspicion that some people may know more than the rest of us on this one
This year’s hosts had a fairly poor record in the contest before last year’s runaway win and they should revert to type now. Being the host should secure some ‘thankyou for hosting’ votes though and that should keep them safe from last
Once a Eurovision powerhouse that could call on many diaspora votes, there’s been an obvious sense that Greece don’t really want the financial burden of hosting it in recent years. This song isn’t bad and has a reasonable enough draw that could well get it into the top 10. It will be shock if it gets top 4 though
Since splitting with Serbia in 2007 they have only qualified once before and finished 19th. A nice Balkan flavour to this song and could get enough friendly votes to get a slightly better result
Already qualified but I’m struggling to find anything too special in this one. Germany finished last in 2005 and have been worse than 20th or worse on 3 other occasions in the last 10 years. It’s only their draw that may prevent a similar fate
I am quite surprised that Poland qualified with quite a dull song and there is some belief it may have been down to a sympathy vote as the singer is in a wheelchair. Qualifiers have finished last on all but two occasions since the current format came in in 2007 (including a joint last for Poland in 2008). It’s a contender for the wooden spoon again for me despite the draw
Of the ‘golden draw numbers’ this one has perhaps the strongest claims though let’s not get too carried away with that. Latvia have won once since they first competed in 2000 but this is the first time they have managed to qualify since 2008.
Aminata looks like some kind of high priestess on stage and while its quite dramatic staging I find the techno moments a bit odd – and overall the song slightly annoying
One of the better songs for a fairly weak first semi but I did find myself struggling with understanding what was meant to be sung in English at times. Romania have never won but have two third places in the last 10 years – normally they are in the 10th and 20th range and that looks likely once more
Another prequalifier but while Edurne sounds good on the video her rehearsal performance haven’t been setting the world alight. Their strongest entry of recent years reached 10th in 2012 from a similarly high draw (though that position was aided by the jury vote). It shows they are another country that are really up against it to make any kind of impact these days and if the performance doesnt come across well then it’s another contender for the wooden spoon ( can rely on Portugal for friendly voting but no Andorra this year)
Lyrics not bad and set looks nice but the song is a bit of a washout for me and another that will be taking whatever scraps of points it can get
Nina goes for Evil Black Queen look , someone’s been watching Snow White and the Huntsman. I can’t even remember the song now which can’t be good!
They have only competed since 2008 and have won once and been in the top 5 on another 4 occasions in that time – a fairly impressive record. There has been some effort put in for sure to provide good songs (it is the most watched show on Azeri tv) and they can always rely on some votes.
This isn’t one of their best though and its the dancing that slightly takes over the song as a focal point. They should achieve top 10 with this draw but hard to see them challenging for top 4
Good draw – good song – good singer and a country with a proven record in this contest (won once and second three times since 2000). In normal years I would be picking this one to win but politics is a huge issue for this song now. Russia managed 7th last year and their act was booed. They didnt get any points from outside their usual cronies and the Ukrainian issue was squarely to blame. Things have hardly improved since and while booing might not be repeated, a voting boycott is still possible.
It all comes down to if the vote is for Polina – or the vote is against Putin. If it’s the former this is the likeliest winner – if it’s the latter it won’t happen and I feel that is the more likely scenario of the two.
I can’t imagine the EBU will relish having to have the contest in Moscow next year and their will be some sweating going on if the points start coming early
The fact I found myself nodding off when listening to this one in the semis sums up my view on it. I’m surprised it qualified but the semi was very weak. Its another contender for last place for me
After a 14 year absence Italy returned to Eurovision in 2011 and surprised all by finishing 2nd. Its worth noting though that they only finished 11th in the public vote that time and their success came down to a landslide jury win. Since then they have been 9th, 7th and 21st.
I suspect their fate here again revolves around jury voting as they can’t rely on the public to get them over the line. They have prequalified so this has only been heard in rehearsals and is a very well regarded entry by opera trio Il Volo.
The final place in the draw is a negative as well as I have previously mentioned. A stunning performance from a group that is very popular in the US would not be a surprise but that is what is needed to get them over the line first
Since the market has been such a good guide over recent years there would appear to be only 5 possible winners in the desired price range (prices added are highest available at time of writing)
The winner should come from these 5 but unless there is a real voting leak going on I think Belgium and Australia are both unlikely and far from certain to be top 4
Its not very exciting to pinpoint the first three in the betting as the likeliest winners but thats how it appears to me and I marginally favour Sweden to win with Russia and Italy finishing in the top 4. There isn’t any great value in the price of any of them currently though.
Outside of this pack there is only Serbia and Norway who I think can challenge and may have enough to get a top 4 place
So for an interest bet at a big price I would look to bet them both each way at around the 40/1 mark with firms who offer 1/4 odds 1234
(1pt ew on each would return 11 pts if either were in top 4)
A market largely available with best prices on Betfair – many other fixed odds firms are offering it now though
I think Greece have a decent enough draw to make 3.9 a decent price for them to achieve this (something they have only failed to do twice in the last 10 years)
Belgium is a small lay at around 1.2 for reasons discussed above
UK is the obvious one for me here and too big at around 7/2 or 4/1 (Ladbrokes 9/2 soon went and its as low as 7/4 with Corals currently). I dont see France as the biggest danger there as the early betting implies and would be favouring France in any match bets that appear with the two
I will add any more specials that look interesting as they appear later this evening
Tonight’s rehearsal will decide the jury vote so keep an eye out on Twitter for any notably good or bad performances which could sway prices!
Thanks for reading and putting up with such ‘anorakdom’ wherever it may appear!
Enjoy the show !
Some very good Eurovision websites giving their opinions and all the latest news from the arena can be found here: