Saturday, 13 May 2017

Why third place could be enough to win

I hate predicting for the final. I am rubbish at it. While I can see in my mind which entries can qualify and which can't, I have a real blind spot about the final, particularly when it comes to the winner. I can construct in my mind a narrative for pretty much every entry as to why they won't win, and even why they just can't win. Which makes it rather difficult to construct a final scoreboard prediction.

In my mind, and in the minds of the betting public, there are three contenders. Even I can see that. And while I can find reasons for them all not to win, I really can't find reasons that any of the other 23 entries would end up on top of the scoreboard after tonight's voting. So let's take them one-by-one.

The favourite pretty much all season, and back to being the favourite as I write this, though only just. When it won Sanremo, I didn't see it winning Eurovision. I thought it was just too difficult to gain widespread support, both in terms of topic and being in Italian. But then, it did. Widespread support among Eurovision fans, true, but support on a level we haven't seen since Alexander Rybak, and possibly not even then.

But then I showed it to a fan-but-not-diehard-fan friend, who usually likes this side of Eurovision. She was underwhelmed. Is that going to be the reaction of much of the viewing public? After having seen the rehearsal clips, I worry that might be the case. The Sanremo performance was, for all its faults, genuinely fun, naively and innocently joyous, and that's missing from what we've seen on the Eurovision staging, as the backdrops try a bit too hard, the camerawork is too distant and Francesco is taking it one step too far into 'clever' and 'ironic'.

And there's always the eternal question that hangs over this entry like an anvil - will the juries just hate it?

Almost the opposite, here. The live performance of Amar pelos dois on Tuesday night was absolutely hypnotic, and it's unsurprising that its odds have shortened dramatically in the last four days. But do televoters really vote en masse for a ballad in Portuguese? That's what I can't fully get my head around. Similarly, it's always been assumed that juries will go for Portugal - but often in the past they've ignored the more difficult ballads and those not in English, instead voting for more 'obvious' songs in English like Australia.

A more obvious televote magnet and jury magnet, really. In a way, it's safer for both voting demographics, and unlike the previous two, there's nothing to turn televoters off or alienate jurors. So if it doesn't work for Italy or Portugal, for whatever reason, then Bulgaria is sitting pretty ready to mop up and take home the trophy.

In my mind, Bulgaria has a set amount of votes that it's definitely getting. Effectively, it's definitely coming third. The problem is, I don't know if Italy, Portugal or anyone else has the potential to go above them, or will that third place turn into the win?

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