Saturday 18 May 2013

ESC final: Where's the value?

If you've been following our betting guides to the Eurovision semi-finals this week, you'll know that it's been more than possible to make some easy money by predicting what's really going to happen, rather than what fans think will happen (hello San Marino!). However, there are always some surprises on the way, too - Israel's non-qualification will have stung the pockets of a lot of punters, for example. So where's the value in the betting market for tonight's grand final?

Firstly, because most normal people equate "ESC" to the Saturday night show, it's worth pointing out that there's far more money in the markets today - and far more interesting sub-markets for us to look at. Let's start with the winner market, though, since that's where most regular punters tend to focus. To say  that Denmark is the hot favourite to win would be a huge understatement. The best available price for Emmelie de Forest's song is 1.79 - that's less than evens in fractional terms. The problem is that most of us who don't think she's a guaranteed winner are none the wiser as to who will win. Norway are currently the second-favourite at 7, while Ukraine have drifted to between 9 and 17.5, depending on who you look at. Useful outsiders, particularly for an each-way bet, could include Germany or Italy (both available for 41) - or, if you think the world is going to go very strange tonight and fall for the elusive charms of Cezar, you can grab Romania for a tasty 101.

The next port of call is the top 4 and top 10 markets. Denmark is basically a write-off in the top 4 market (a best price of 1.12 offers no value at all), so you might want to look at the likes of the late-drawn Greece (4.5), Georgia (5.56) or Italy (5.5) for a better bet. The top 10 market is more potentially rewarding - if all the votes really are concentrated around the likes of Denmark, that opens up the possibility for some surprise countries sneaking into the upper echelons of the scoreboard. A price of 3.1 says that semi-final favourite Ireland will be among them, for example, while the male power vocals (in very different ways!) of Romania and Iceland are both priced at 4.5. Alternatively, if you think a soft and pleasant song like Estonia - effectively alone in its field - could capture enough jury attention to be catapulted into the top 10, that one's available for a very tasty 11.

As Eurovision fans, of course, we're almost as interested in what happens at the other end of the scoreboard. In the last place market, poor old Spain are the clear favourites - a mere 3 is available for them to finish last, and the odds are shortening all the time. Other candidates include Belarus and Lithuania at 11; both countries would seem to have enough allies to score 20-odd points, but that was almost enough for last place in 2011, so if the votes are widely spread then they could still get tangled up at the bottom of the table. Thinking of the light and airy sounds of Switzerland 2011, actually, I'm wondering if Malta at 21 mightn't be a bad outsider for last place - but then I also suspected Gianluca wouldn't qualify, so what do I know?

In the final, there are also regional markets to look at - although some are bigger than others, e.g. following the Balkan collapse in the semi-finals that's left us with just Romania and Greece to choose from! If you suspect Norway will come out as the top Nordic country but you don't want to pin yourself down to a bet on their absolute placing, for example, a price of 4.75 is available at sites such as Ladbrokes and Bwin. (The real outsider in this group is Iceland, coming in at a whopping 41.) Meanwhile, in what's being called the "Western Europe" category - consisting of the Netherlands, Ireland, France, the United Kingdom and Belgium - you can still get a quite decent 2.44 if you think Hologrammatic Anouk will beat off the aforementioned competition. Seems quite feasible - the only one I can realistically see challenging her is Ireland (3.5), although if the Bonnie Tyler fanbase turns out in force, 7 might end up seeming like a quite acceptable price.

While we're on the subject of Bonnie, there's the top big 5 market. Italy leads the way here at a best price of 1.91, and with a late draw and all those Balkan votes floating around, it's hard to disagree with that. However, Germany's Cascada is a big name, and 3.75 for Natalie's dance beats to come out on top is quite an attractive proposition too.

As on Tuesday and Thursday, we finish with the many head-to-heads that are on offer. 2.62 for Greece to beat Azerbaijan seems like an interesting one - and I'm certainly tempted by the 2.1 that's available for Iceland to beat Finland, especially now we've seen their respective positions in the running order. Meanwhile, if you think Ireland's position in the running order is hugely advantageous to them, you can get 2.4 for Ryan Dolan to finish ahead of Anouk from the Netherlands.

You can use the wonderful Oddschecker to investigate all of these markets and more for yourself. And whatever you bet on, I hope you have a great time tonight and end up happier, richer, or ideally both!

Eurovision Day is here, ZOMGZ!!

Two weeks in Malmö are drawing to an end, and we've seen lots of rehearsals, mad cats, cows in the arena (or heard them, at least), worked our way through quite a substantial amount of wine, free or otherwise - and now we're nearly there. Tonight at 21:00 CET the Eurovision Song Contest 2013 will begin, and not too many minutes into tomorrow (depending on whether they've cut anything from the looong intro or the looooonger interval act) we'll know Loreen's successor.

I've been twisting my head forwards and backwards (and a little to the side, like in my accreditation photo) to try to figure out who it's going to be. The obvious answer is of course "Denmark", if polls and bookmakers are to be believed. But then again, so we thought about France in 2011 - could it be a case of the same kind of "accelerating favourite", that more and more people gets behind simply because they're starting to get a bit clueless? I don't really think the two are comparable, for what it's worth, and I doubt we'll see Emmelie de Forest crash to the same extent as Amaury Vassili did two years ago. I have been doubting her chances to actually win all season, though, and if nothing else, I want to stick with my prediction that she won't, just to make sure I'm not just swooped up in the majority view. A top 3 finish seems very likely, though, a prediction supported by the Danish song's success in various iTunes charts across Europe.

But then we need someone else to win, don't we...? GARGH. I've had Germany as a front runner big parts of the season, and Cascada is selling it extremely well on stage, so there's little reason to change that thought based on the rehearsals we've seen. However, I think it's safe to say its main audience is the televoters, and I do fear it might lose out on a few votes by being performed as #11. It's not a disastrous draw, but almost all of the other potential vote-grabbers have been luckier, and are to be find towards the end of the running order. Or could it actually hurt the others to be chucked together, and make Germany stand out more?

The delicious Fərid Məmmədov from Azerbaijan is hard to overlook, even though he is very short. His face is not a work of classic beauty, but with those arms, several upside-down e's in his name and that smouldering look in his eyes, I'm sold as hell. The strong, powerful song obviously helps too, and I think he's heading for a safe top 5 result. Yet, I can't see it winning, for some reason.

So we're left with Norway's Margaret Berger... I've loved this from about the first time I heard it, back in January, and it sure hasn't gotten any worse during rehearsals. She keeps nailing it, and is getting more smiley and charismatic by each run-through. I've been trying my best to avoid getting carried away and overrate its chances, but after convincing myself I won't get on the bandwagon and predict Denmark (even though I know there's a fair chance it's going to happen), this is by far the best package I'm left with - a great draw and a great performance, and a song that should appeal to televoters and juries alike. Boy, am I in for a disappointment tonight or what... :-o

So with that covered, this is how I think the complete scoreboard will look at the end of the evening. Am I wrong? Am I right? Comment or ridicule below!

1: NORWAY - Iiiiihh!
2: DENMARK - If it's not Norway, it's this. A good winner, but would be a bit anticlimactic...
3: AZERBAIJAN - Omnomnom
4: GERMANY - Hoping the juries went for it last night, and that she shines like we know she's capable of on screen tonight.
5: GREECE - May well be top 3 in the televote, and even I have started to mind it less by now... Is it related to hottie lead singer being very nice and touchy when we had our picture taken...?
6: UKRAINE - Useless, shouty mess, but god what a great mess it is.
7: NETHERLANDS - I really hope this doesn't fail...
8: ITALY - Had started to believe in a top 5 finish, but that performance in the jury final last night made me wonder. It should theoretically be his main audience after all, more so than the televote.
9: RUSSIA - Been solid all week, and works well, but there's little to actually love here.
10: GEORGIA - Similar to Russia - just a bit less solid the last few days.
11: ICELAND - Still think this is getting Norway's douze.
12: MOLDOVA - Would've been interesting to have this on much later, it does seem to disappear a bit when on as #3. A great little (well, tall) thing, though - the one that rose from rehearsals for me.
13: IRELAND - Should manage a decent result, but don't think it'll trouble any end of the scoreboard.
14: SWEDEN - An odd home entry, really, quite a different song from the rest. He's singing it well, though, and even if it might disappear a little for the televoters, I expect it got some jury support last night.
15: HUNGARY - Speaking of different... Love this to bits, and it stands out a mile.
16: ROMANIA - Yikes.
17: MALTA - Sweet and endearing in a goofy way, with his shy grin and walking with his feet turned inwards. Might get lost tonight, but should have a certain audience.
18: ARMENIA - Competent and solid, but probably won't have a massive audience. And I'm guessing the juries in countries that normally have them high in their televote may be a little extra careful to vote it down, unfair or not.
19: LITHUANIA - A great little song, this, and the performance last night was the best I've seen it, with a cheeky charm, and Andrius clearly enjoying himself.
20: FINLAND - This is as solid as ever, but I'm expecting it to get a bit lost when on as #4 - in addition to having a rather limited audience, region-wise.
21: BELGIUM - Competent enough, but forgotten a few songs after.
22: BELARUS - Well, who's gonna vote for this then? A few good neighbours and friends, and that'll be just about it, I would think. Still, CHA CHA HEY and CLINK * CLINK * CLINK
23: ESTONIA - Sweet and lovely, but rather doomed, I fear.
24: FRANCE - Not as good as it wants to be, and even if it were, would probably have a limited voting demographic. Will they repeat last year's televote zero? I guess it's technically not possible with the new voting system (as we won't have a 'televote 1-12'), but yaknowwhatimean.
25: UNITED KINGDOM - Nice and proper, if a little dull. 'Nice and proper, if a little dull' doesn't get you votes at Eurovision.
26: SPAIN - Making the most of what it is, but it still is what it is, sadly. Could we get our first zero in the final since the introduction of semi finals?

Good luck to all of you tonight!! xx

Malmö prepares you for every result

This befuddled car has been parking in the Triangeln area of Malmö is as clueless as we are, but at least it admits it.

I'd head plenty of warnings about Malmö before arriving here. "It's a shithole", "a ghetto", "stay in Copenhagen/Lund/Hamburg or regret it", etc. etc.

I've witnessed none of this. No, I haven't received any freebies to say this (except maybe some fika and lots of tap water) - but Malmö is actually a really nice place! Here are some reasons:
  • People are very friendly, and not in the annoying way. That goes for both random people at the street and Eurovision staff. The security people were always apologetic when they asked me to empty my bottle. And cars always stop for me when I approach the road (that felt weird - crossing a road in Stockholm, or back home for that matter takes forever).
  • It's a tasty city. You can get food from various cuisines for quite cheap (especially Middle Eastern) next to the yumsy Swedish pastries.
  • The trains are purple and are called Pågatåg. I want to live in them.
  • I felt very safe - any time of day or night - even in the neighbourhood that has some kind of reputation for not being so.
  • It was just the right size for Eurovision - and it was everywhere. The random supermarkets playing the official CD, the churches advocating schlager (what?) and the EuroCafé blasting out its music to much of the city. EuroCafé is the best in years, too!
  • Most importantly, there's a lot of hot people in here (thanks, Bosnian immigration?)
Enjoy tonight, we know we will!

Since everyone else is categorising...

...I'll do the same. Here's a guess as to how things might pan out tomorrow night - some of it is playing the percentages and the logic game, then there's a few speculative punts in there too. See what you think!

In no particular order within each category...

1st-5th: Denmark, Greece, Italy, Azerbaijan, Iceland
6th-10th: Germany, Russia, Georgia, Romania, Moldova
11th-15th: Ukraine, Estonia, Netherlands, Hungary, Norway
16th-20th: Sweden, Finland, Malta, Armenia, Ireland
21st-26th: France, Lithuania, Belgium, Spain, Belarus, United Kingdom