Tuesday sees the first semi-final ahead of the Eurovision final in Lisbon on Saturday. We sent Specials trader, David Linder, out to Portugal to keep a close eye on rehearsals and he has found three to back...
"Opposing Finland to qualify from the semi at around the current 2.56/4 is already worthy of consideration, but chances are that the laying value will be even better in-running, when punters see the familiar face appearing on screen tonight and the price possibly moves towards evens."
Cyprus usurping Israel in rehearsals
It's been an intense last few days of rehearsals in Lisbon, with Monday evening's run seeing Cyprus shortening dramatically in the outright market. They are now considered the most likely entry to win, while doubts are starting to creep in about previous leader Israel as the staging struggles to fully capture the fun on display in the hugely popular music video. Here's a clip of their rehearsal.
The evening rehearsal on Monday is what the jury panels watch when giving their scores, meaning that when the broadcast starts tonight, half of the total points will already have been assigned.
The other half is given though tele-voting by viewers at home, with the summed up point tallies deciding our ten qualifiers. On Thursday evening we will get our second batch of qualifiers, who will then be joined by the UK and the other pre-qualified "Big 5" countries to together with hosts Portugal make out the full field for Saturday evening.
Another near miss for Aalto?
Saara Aalto of X Factor UK fame is performing "Monsters" for Finland on Tuesday night, featuring a very professional performance and impeccable vocals. Having already won the hearts of the British audience they will no doubt pick up the phone for her tonight, but otherwise I see this struggling: fans will love it, but for the regular European viewer or jury member it's simply too much glittery kitsch and gimmicks.
Opposing Finland to qualify from the semi at around the current 2.56/4 is already worthy of consideration, but chances are that the laying value will be even better in-running, when punters see the familiar face appearing on screen tonight and the price possibly moves towards evens.
Swiss siblings light up the arena
The duo ZiBBZ with their song "Stones" for Switzerland (clip, above) have really owned the stage throughout the rehearsal week and juries should lap up this competent package.
There are bigger doubts with tele-voters as Switzerland lacks natural geo-cultural allies, but they at least have a late slot in the running order which should help keep them fresh in viewers' minds when it's time to pick up the phone after all entries have been performed. The price at the time of writing of just under 2.01/1 to qualify is likely influenced by Switzerland's poor track-record, and as such too pessimistic and should be backed.
Classy performance lifts Croatian "Crazy"
Initially written off by the market as a no-hoper, the slightly monotonous entry from Croatia surprised many by oozing class in addition to the stunning vocals by singer Franka. Its lack of musical progression is still a big worry however, and many viewers will no doubt lose interest before the somewhat long three minutes are over.
But with juries expected to pay more attention as well as putting great value on the professional delivery, their rankings may just be enough to push it over the finishing line in this already very competitive semi-final. While probably still more likely to miss out than to make it, it's worth taking a flyer at 5.04/1 or better.
Back Switzerland to qualify at 2.01/1 or better
Back Croatia to qualify at 5.04/1 or better
Lay Finland to qualify in-running at 2.01/1 or shorter