Eurovision 2014 – Semi-Final 1

The wait is finally over, tonight we get Eurovision underway with the stronger of the two semi-finals. We have the current market leaders of Armenia and Sweden, along with powerhouse Azerbaijan and my fancy for this years crown, Hungary.

The show kicks off with current favourite Aram MP3, singing Not Alone for Armenia. In my last piece I wrote why I thought his was the 2014 ‘fanwank’ and after seeing some of the rehearsal edits I stand by that.

I like the song, I sing it to myself everyday… but it’s missing something for me. We get treated to a light show but I want more. I was expecting to see Aram have more natural passion, to me it just looks too forced. To be honest there’s times in his performance where he looks like Luis Suarez sitting on a toilet.

If this was X-Factor everyone would be going on about the death slot. The song will qualify for the final, but I don’t think that it should be favourite to win this semi-final. There are enough songs later int he draw that will take televotes away from it. I would lay it, but from a betting point of view it makes more sense to back a few against it.

Sweden are second favourites for the show and it’s a song I’d usually want to keep on side, however in this semi-final I think there is one song that will take a lot of beating. I think that it’s the best of the Nordic entries this year. Sanna puts in a very clean performance although I’m not to sure about the ‘light prison’ in her staging.

She will also have to overcome an early draw (4th), however as Denmark and Azerbaijan showed last year when winning their semis from 5th and 4th, if the song’s good enough it’s not that much of a hindrance. Having said all of that I still feel the song will struggle to finish above the Hungarian entry.

Hungary have been given the ‘pimp-slot’, again if this was X-Factor we’d see a price crash. Andras Kallay-Saunders delivers a powerful and solid performance. Unlike Sweden and Armenia he uses the stage and there’s something more than him just standing there with lights around him.

This is the type of song I can imagine being played on radio stations throughout Europe next week. It’ll be interesting to see how his Youtube views and iTunes sales increase after tonight. Just based on performance I don’t see why he’s three times the price of Armenia. He should pick up consistent votes from each country and jury votes from last night, we already know that Azerbaijan won’t be voting for Armenia, which could/should hurt them in a close year. At the odds we can even cover it to come top three and still make a profit by backing each-way.

I’m also going to top up on my Outright Winner bet as I think this song will be a single digit price by the time the final starts on Saturday.

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Back Hungary Semi-Final Winner each-way at 7.00 – Coral
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Back Hungary Outright Winner each-way at 14.00 – General
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There appears to be a lot of ‘love’ for Ukraine this year in the betting markets, and the only reason I think that they are so short is due to the belief that they’ll pick up mass sympathy votes due to the ‘war’. The song Tick-Tock is ok and I expect it to qualify for the final, however at odds of 2.40 for a Top 3 finish I think it’s a lay.

I already have Sweden and Hungary ahead of it, if the fanboys vote for Armenia then that should be beating it too. The staging is slightly distracting and I think it will be marked down when compared to Azerbaijan who sing before and Belgium who sing immediately after.

Azerbaijan are a solid Eurovision nation, that always perform consistently and again this year they’ve sent a powerful ballad. Dilara Kazimova performs with elegance and grace, the staging is also a million times better than Ukraine.

Whether that’s enough for her to make the top three in this semi-final I don’t know, I don’t think it is, but I am sure that she’ll finish above Ukraine.

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Lay Ukraine Top 3 Finish in Semi-Final 1 at 2.30 – Betfair
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I was tempted to take on Russia, however I think Russia will gain enough votes via diaspora for them to sneak through.

Belgium have again raised the question of whether ‘Opera’ works at Eurovision. France tried and failed with this approach in 2011. This year Belgium have sent a guy who can only be described as the Go Compare man to sing a song about his Mother.

I can see juries giving it a fair score, they have a late draw and have help from neighbors The Netherlands. However should Axel Hirsoux be a 1.25 shout to qualify. They’re more likely to qualify than not, but their record of only qualifying for the final twice in the last nine years is dreadful. I make them nearer a 1.6x shot of qualifying.

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Lay Belgium To Qualify from Semi-Final 1 at 1.25 – Betfair
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***Remember Top 3 and Winner bets won’t be settled until after Saturday’s final***

My Views on the markets for The Final so far can be found here and as usual I’ll be tweeting anything that stands out in running tonight.

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