I have to admit, I'm finding Semi 1 one of the hardest semis to predict in a number of years, and that's for the simple reason that there are so many songs that, for me, are right on the borderline of qualifying. To put my thoughts in order, I thought I'd write about them.
For me, there are six songs that are definitely through in Semi 1, and four that are definitely out. That leaves seven in the borderline between 8th place and 14th place - so three of them have to qualify. Those seven songs are Greece, Hungary, Croatia, Azerbaijan, Austria, Estonia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, and for me, they fall into three pairs (plus Greece). So let's take them in their pairs.
Battle 1: Azerbaijan vs Austria
The two young girls who haven't impressed vocally in rehearsals. I've always really liked Austria, and have tended to be quite firm in my belief that it's a good song, and that will be enough to carry it through. However, with a lot of competition in this semi-final, and so many things working against it (the language, Zoe's vocals, the cute-and-likeable vs annoying-and-precocious debate), I now think it stays in the semi. Azerbaijan, by contrast, has never impressed me as a song - I always found it quite ordinary, and I think the staging is also quite underwhelming. But they have more friends, and what's possibly quite a generically appealing song.
Battle 2: Hungary vs Estonia
Two boys singing darker songs. Hungary have been quite well-thought of since 'Pioneer' was chosen, both in predictions and betting odds, but I've never seen it. I always found the performance from A Dal quite uninteresting, and it doesn't sound like Freddie's done much to change that in Stockholm. It'll all depend on if Europe sees something more than I do. On the other side of the battle, Estonia have changed their performance for the international final, and reports suggest it might be over-complicating things now. I do think Hungary is slightly more accessible as a song, but Juri might have enough appeal - and who knows what juries will make of it?
Battle 3: Croatia vs Bosnia-Herzegovina
The Balkan nations - is there room for both of them in the final? Croatia have tumbled down the rankings over the past couple of months, and even more so after seeing the planned stage performance. I always had Bosnia-Herzegovina down as a non-qualifier - just too Balkan as a song, and potentially not a very vote-friendly look (that's me trying to find a kind way of saying that Deen looks weird). But as Bosnia always do, they've come with a strong (if slightly odd) performance in rehearsals, and may surprise us once again. I told myself I'd never bet against Bosnia qualifying after 2010 - perhaps I should take that advice tonight.
And then there's Greece. As a song, it should be doomed - but on the other hand, the last time they entered a combination of rap and singing in a mix of languages, which we'd all assumed was hopeless when it was selected, it went and won the semi. I'm always wary of counting Greece out.
So, I have to make a choice... here goes:
6. Czech Republic
And missing out:
16. San Marino