Saturday 23 May 2015

Haiku #13

Soon we will know who'll
be the best in the Euro
vision Song Contest

Final prediction - IIIIIH!

We're getting closer! :-o Both semifinals out of the way and without any massive shocks or surprises, really, will the final be as easy to predict? I don't really think so, but I do find it easier than last year. Which probably means I'll be waaaay off with most of it...

My own favourites are still Azerbaijan and Norway, and both gave me goosebumps in the semi, but I wasn't as absolutely wowed by them as I wished I had been. Maybe it was just drafty...? Some others made a good impression though, and regardless of whether I actually like them or not, I thought Estonia, Hungary, Israel and Latvia worked better on screen than I'd expected.

So anyway, here is what I think the result will be tonight. Sticking with Sweden, but kinda hoping for a surprise, even though I like it... Eurovision hosted in Italy would be amazeballs, for instance - or a Belgian victory, as that would give my economy a nice boost.

1 Sweden | Mums mums.
2 Italy
3 Russia
4 Belgium | Been quite confident this will do relatively well all along, as it's just so good, but also seems to have a gained a bit of momentum after the semi.
5 Latvia | Opposite here, I've doubted its chances all along, but maybemaybe? Good draw for it too, I'd say!
6 Australia
7 Estonia | Looked great on screen.
8 Norway | It really should do better than Carl Espen last year, but there's just no room further up...
9 Azerbaijan
10 Slovenia
11 Georgia
12 Armenia | Will be interesting to see how the juries judge this - I really have no idea... Whereas the televote support from the diaspora presumably is at least as strong as usual.
13 Spain
14 Israel
15 Albania | Very unsure about this...
16 Greece | Whereas it seems obvious this will end up about here.
17 Serbia
18 Lithuania
19 Romania
20 France
21 Montenegro
22 United Kingdom | Rehearsal reports not promising, but I do think there will be the odd jury here and there really falling for it, keeping it off the last place.
23 Hungary | Worked quite well in the semi, but I still think it's all rather useless.
24 Germany
25 Cyprus | Would be nice to be wrong about this, but I just can't see many remembering it with that draw.
26 Austria | Still can't hum it...
27 Poland

Have an amazing evening, everyone - it's Eurovision tonight!!

Final betting guide: some bets you should have placed

For an event that's meant to be the highlight of our year as Eurovision fans, final night can sometimes be a bit of an anti-climax. We've seen nearly all the songs, we have a good idea of how everything's going to be performed, and, more often than not in recent years, the winner is a bit of a foregone conclusion.

So, let's spice things up a bit with a few bets!

The obvious place for most people to bet is the win market, but honestly, that's a bit dull. All the good money has gone weeks ago, and unless you've suddenly spotted something that you missed until the semi-finals, betting on the final is all a bit ho-hum. Sweden are an ever greater favourite than they were before, with best odds of 2.4; maybe you've spotted something in Belgium, whose odds are now at 11, having come in dramatically since the semi-final, or you still have faith in Italy, whose odds have drifted slightly to 6 since the running order announcement.

However, let's brighten up the rest of the voting. Betting on other outcomes gives you the chance to look further down the scoreboard - particularly if you're convinced Sweden are winning, betting on other results can liven up a potentially dull voting.

There's obviously the Top 3, Top 4, Top 5 and Top 10 markets offered by a number of bookies (though they rarely offer all combinations). The Top 10 market has been one of my favourites to bet on this year, as with a few key favourites probably occupying the top positions, the rest of the high end of the scoreboard could be a bit volatile. It's worth remembering that you don't always need a huge amount of support to reach 9th or 10th - Ruth Lorenzo came 10th with just 74 points last year.

This means that a country can often reach the top 10 without getting all-round support - either just winning votes from one part of Europe or, as Ruth did, scoring mainly from juries. Interesting bets here to my mind therefore include Georgia, at 2.75, and Romania, at 3.25. I also find it intriguing that you can still more than double your money by betting on Azerbaijan to be Top 10. The performance on Thursday was, to my mind, overly messy and distracting, but I still think there'll be certain viewers who will gobble this up.

Of course, if you want to be looking down at the right of the scoreboard, there's always the market for last place. The UK is 'favourite' here, with odds of 4, but I'm surprised you can get odds of 11 for Poland to come last - they only narrowly escaped the last place in 2008 with a similarly-styled song, and could well go one worse, with televoters and juries alike having plenty of other stronger-voiced balladeers to choose from.

One of my favourite markets during the final is the head-to-heads (sometimes called match bets). This effectively pits one country against another, with the higher placed one winning. There's tons of combinations of these spread among the various bookmakers, and I'd advise you to have a browse. Particularly if you think a certain song is underrated, it might be safer to bet on it to beat another, weaker song, rather than to come Top 5 or Top 10 - after all, if you bet on France to beat the UK, France could come 26th and you'd still win your bet if the UK came last!

One of the countries I've been looking at in the matches is Germany, as I feel they're generally quite underrated - not a top 10 contender, but also likely not bottom 5 to my mind. So I've taken odds of 2.25 for them to finish ahead of Poland, for example, who, as you'll have gathered from above or my earlier prediction, I think are pretty doomed. There's also odds of 2.1 available for them to beat France, though I haven't gone near that one as France could potentially gather a lot of jury support. It can also be fun to bet on matches that are rated quite close, and keep an eye on them throughout the voting - Greece vs Cyprus is always a good one (Greece are seen as the favourite here), or Armenia vs Azerbaijan. One head-to-head that stuck out to me was the 3.5 offered by Bet365 for Hungary to finish ahead of Romania. While I do think Romania is probably the victor here, those generous odds convinced me it was worth a punt.

Finally, there's always the occasional random bet out there, and this year bwin want to know if you think Loïc Nottet will score more points than Mariya Yaremchuk did last year, or if Polina Gagarina can get more points than Andras Kallay-Saunders amassed (spoiler: yes).

As always, oddschecker is your friend, and I hope you have a very enjoyable (and profitable) evening!

A small prediction

At this stage in proceedings I don't think I can manage to say very much that hasn't already been said after two weeks of scrutinising rehearsals, performances, clothes, graphics, lighting and trees.

But it is a blogger's duty to predict (and oh, btw, I had 10/10 on Thursday), and predict I shall:

Sweden will win.

I'd love for there to be a surprise but at this stage I can't see it happening. If it's not Sweden I expect it will be one of the other favourites, with the dark horses having become invisible on the blue backdrop.

And call me a crazy mad thing, but I've put my winnings from Thursday - Iceland not to qualify, since you ask - on the UK to receive not a single douze points tonight. Now watch the Albanian jury screw me.

Is it wine o'clock?

Predicting the final

Well, here we are. It's going to be really interesting afterwards to look back at all these predictions, because either it's going to be a 'that was such an easy year to predict' contest, or it's going to be a 'we never saw that coming'.

I haven't changed many of my predictions throughout the season, and very little has actually changed this week either. A few have popped upwards and a couple of others have fallen even lower, but particularly at the top end, the status quo rules supreme.

So, here we go, my Top 27 prediction:

1. Sweden - watching it on Thursday I didn't actually feel captured by the same magic I did when I first saw it in Melodifestivalen, so I was tempted to rate it lower. But I'm still sticking by my gut, that the best visual show wins, and that this is still the best visual show.
2. Belgium - a big climber, doing well on the iTunes charts, and seems to be getting positive comments from bloggers despite the challenge of performing after Australia.
3. Russia - I've always thought this would do well, but similarly have never thought it would win. I just don't think Russia, as a country, can win Eurovision in the current climate.
4. Norway
5. Estonia
- Also doing well on iTunes, I do think this is too negative as a performance to win, but they do communicate the message very well, and I think that's enough to lift it into the top 5.

6. Australia - I had this down as a potential winner for much of the season, but rehearsal reports and videos have lost Guy some of his momentum. I think it'll be where I originally predicted it back in March when first challenged by friends - 6th.
7. Italy
8. Cyprus
9. Latvia
- there's a small part of me that thinks this can possibly go even higher, but I'm not confident enough to bet on it for Top 5.
10. Azerbaijan

11. Georgia
- definitely an outside for the top 10, particularly with its draw.
12. Austria - one that I think could surprise a little.
13. Slovenia - I managed to lay this for Top 10 at odds of 2 during the semi-final. It's gone further out since, so I could back it and make an automatic profit now, but I'm sticking to my guns on this one.
14. Romania
15. Spain
16. Israel
17. Germany
18. Serbia
- I'm placing both this and Israel in the category of 'great fun in the semi, underwhelming and throwaway in the final'.
19. Albania - consensus seems to be that it scraped through on Tuesday. I'm not so sure, but I don't think it's much of a contender tonight.
20. Armenia

21. Greece
22. Lithuania
- too lightweight to really make an impact, would have benefited greatly from being near the end of the show.
23. Hungary
24. Montenegro
25. France
- would have stood a chance of a good result from a second-half draw. At second, it's screwed.
26. Poland - benefited greatly from being on last on Thursday. It's late again, but I don't see why anyone would choose this over many of the other ballads on offer.
27. UK - just... why would anyone vote for this?

Final scoresheets

Following a number of requests, our scoresheets for tonight's Eurovision final are now available.

Click to download

We'd love to see your photos of how you use them tonight - tweet us @ESCNation or tag us @ESCNation on Instagram.

Haiku #12

The winner soon known
First half may conquer again
Does Sochi beckon?

Friday 22 May 2015


Professional, working all it has. We're not going to Thessaloniki which is a good thing for Greece and NERIT but she's giving it all she has and nailing it.

I find it extremely hard as you know to write anything about this. It works. It's balkan. It passed to the final. It will end up probably bottom left or top right of the table. Everyone will go home and continue their life.

And of course, one more postcard I miss due to not paying attention. Oh well, surprise for tomorrow.

Ann Sophie has a new earring on her left. It's one of those songs which is good for radio but don't think it's doing too much on stage. Don't see it lighting up with points tomorrow night.

Well, Poland was my missed country from last night's qualifyers - I obviouly put Malta instead.
No idea, it seems to be loved by many a person and I like it too - it was my 11th choice - but although a good song sung well, I don't see it setting the stage alight.

Now this is another story. I am extatic for Aminata and Latvia as a whole. It shows that if you don't give up and you try your best you will get results. Could this be a dark horse? Top 10 likely? Further up?

And the kid is still there, not yet retuned to Romania. The song is performed well and Călin is charismatic with the camera. Should get mid tables.

Edurne goes sledging with huskies. Again, the huskies must have thanked their stars that this petite artiste was chosen for them.

Amazing! Trick of light so you don't see the first cape being ripped off ... well, you kinda do due to not great timing, but still great effect. Best performance we've seen from Spain to now. Things are working a lot better, camera angles, lighting ... should see this going up the rankings. Don't bet on a win or top 3 though.

Boogying to Boggie was amazing during SF1. Solid performance again now. Came to be expected now though.

Without all the make up Nina looks fresh and young. Doesn't help the effect she's trying to go for but she'll be all dolled up later on tonight and tomorrow no doubt.

Great vocals and attitude. It's a great follower to Hungary - brings back the energy to the arena and viewers. Left side of the board for sure.

Vocally competent but it's a repeat of what we've seen over the past few days. Last year we saw Azerbaijan does not need to be on the left. I think this will be high right.

Only 8th in the Press Centre voting, Polina is nailing it. This is most likely her contest to lose.
There will be many comments whatever happens on the night, Russia win, look for the media mentioning Russia's rights and equality records, Russia lose, look at the Russian and spere media reporting on how Europe is playing a game which they will end up losing... who said there was no drama at Eurovision?

Wearing a different black sparkly ensemble for the rehearsal, Elhaida looked to me in the beginning as if she had her bra straps showing - this is not the case, it's the netting of the dress.

Another good performance but not much twitching in the press centre sphere and the arena is not to be judged since they seem to be applauding and cheeing at everything.

Another missed post card - talking about which delegations have already gone home and which not.

To be honest, coming after Russia and Albania just makes this lose it's potential. It seems like it's just *there*. Still will get to the top parts of the board but winner - maybe not so sure.

Conchita talks to us and then the three other hosts are on stage to open the voting.


A bunch of drums, and drummers for said drums, on stage. Ooh, and trumbones, and trumpets, and many other instruments.

There is a lot of commotion due to a certain angry Italian close to where I am sitting so I am missing some bits. It seems that the acts will be forming hearts. This is very weird. Have no clue what is going on. That is why the commentators have the notes from the broadcaster. There is a massive rainbow though.

Riverdance it is not. Emmelie de Forest it is not. Petra Mede it is not. This is about as memorable as the one from Belgrade. You know, the one with ... hmm... emm... yes, that one.


Recap over, we have 60 seconds left to vote.

Countdown for the last 10 seconds.

Conchita sings You are Unstoppable. And continues with Firestorm.

We then speak to Conchita and later to Vincenzo who won the Junior Eurovision Song Contest for Italy back in November 2014. We see a clip of his performance and continue talking to him.

Arabella mentions Jan Ola Sand. "Hurry up Jan Ola! I'm coming!" she state! Hmm... be afraid!

And another issue. Seems like something was missed. Conchita runs back on stage to meet Alice and Mirjam who were there with the trophy.

Lots of commotion happening around me at the moment. I think Lys is here for interviews but can't see her - poor thing, she's such an old lady.

We then go through clips of winners past.

Arabella back in view. We see Jan Ola again and there is some awkward chat between the two. "This is where I say we have a result" explains Jan Ola. Ooh!

We're on the voting. For the rehearsals it's always in alphabetical order and usually the 12 get given to the next country in line. We should be going to our second voter, Armenia which just got 12 from Albania, but instead we have confusion and uncertainty.

When we call a country, we see a line, a Chain of Light if you will, from Vienna to the capital of the country which is voting. Apart from Vienna itself where thre is a big red light.

This will take a while so grabbing food.

OK, so food eaten but after 20 votes we seem to have stopped. Latvia was in the lead with Italy and Israel completing the top 3. There was a leaderboard showing you the full ranking at that point so no need to frantically count down to find out where our favourite is.

It seems that this is the end of the rehearsal. Which means we can pack up and get ready for the last night before our most sacred of nights is upon us again, and we find out where we will be flying, training or bussing to next year!


We've got 10 minutes before the first dress rehearsal for the final starts. Excitement aplenty!

Te Deum was playing in the background. We didn't have a screen view bbut now we have two guys on stage - the same which were prepping the audience up the last couple of days for the semi finals.

Seems like we're running a bit late, this is not part the of the show - unless we wer in Italy, it seems like something you would be able to see on Italia 1/Canale 5 or RAI1 on a weeknight.

The 'warm up' guys are still there ...

Still haven't started... nearly 10 mins late.

Te deum played by an orchestra in a marquee in the grounds of the Schlossbrun. We then get treated to a classical piece and then the intro to this years' building bridges.

Starting the show with another mix of last years' announcement of the winner - Austria.

We then go on a tour of Austira with the theme being circles - or at least that's the only connection I can see between the clips.

Circles, bubbles, running people, smiling children, all result in one sphere arriving at the Weiner Stadthalle and a real sphere travels down from the ceiling to the stage where it meets a violinist playing Merci Chérie and then flows into Rise like a Phoenix. During this performance the back of the stage opens up to reveal the orchestra.

Conchita rises up from under the stage.She sings the theme song of this year - Building Bridges.
Also joining her are the three other hosts - Arabella, Mirjam and Alice.

Conchita flies up into the airand is suspended over the audience moving from the podium to the main stage. In come the Vienna Boys' Choir. We move into a rap moment and the kids start waving Austrian and Australian flags. Really, this Australia stuff is starting to get to me - and I never really cared about them taking part, I thought it was a nice one off.

The stage is now for the 27 competing countries, however there was no announcement of the countries so the Slovenes were a bit 'do we, don't we' moment. They decide to take a leap and the camera moves on to Serbia, but the music is then stopped. Arabella then says "it seems that you don't need to rehearse but we do!"

"Good evening Europe!" and then music ... at the wrong time... so all three presenters laugh. Conchita looks pissed.

There is no mentioning of indicidual countries this time, just all come down at the same time.

Once all acts, flag bearers, remaining dancers and any other person wanting to go on stage has managed to get there, we continue singing Building Bridges. And the music stops.

"What a fantastic opening [...] thank you to our 265 artists here on stage"

Next we have the building bridges clips wich people were asked to submit. Not a "down down low" in sight.

Informing about the voting and we're about to start.

Extremely confident and compitent. Sounds like you're hearing the studio version. For someone who only qualified last night, Marjetka is doing very well. "Danke" and "Hvala".

Lisa is dressed in old Imperial robes and is having high tea. A picture is taken for her to keep.

The cameras failed right at the beginning. Director needs to be careful, rookie mistake. Still going on though, doesn't seem important enough to stop the show.

Lisa is not singing at her strongest, but we already know her philosophy - they need two good rounds, the one tonight and the one tomorrow. This is just a rehearsal.

Nadav is not wearing his Golden Boy outfit - unless he wants to overly promote Nike t-shirts.

Some cameraman from NRK is blocking my view. But people seem to be clapping. It's good but maybe he's saving himself, maybe he partied too much last night ... maybe it's just getting a bit 'we've seen this already'? What am I saying? It's still fun!

Something happened - so instead of listening to Estonia, we have facts about Estonia in the Eurovision Song Contest read to us by Arabella. I am not sure if this is a rehearsal for 'should anything go wrong' or if it is actually just going wrong.

It seems it is going wrong. There is a technical (camera) issue. The three presenters are trying their best, but stand up comics they are not. Feel sorry for them. But oh well, it will be fine on the night.

Estonian postcard again - let's see if it works this time.

This time we get going.

Good performance, she doesn't cry but maybe it's not worth her while in this one.

Bianca and Alex go flying drones at night with magical sticks - or at least that's whatt they want us to believe.

The pack has been covered by the fur throwover. Song is really not going anywhere. Need to grab that coffee? Why not use this as your break? Wouldn't be surprised if this came last. I think it will still receive points from Australia and Ireland but not many from anywhere else.

Coming after the UK can only help Armenia. Another good performance and the circle is being nailed now. Should do decently well.

Harmless enough. Not going to do exceedingly well but not going to be really low in rankings either.

The more amazing thing I saw during this performance was that some delusional being has voted that the UK would win. I want whatever they're having please, and the suppliers' address. Danke. 

Bojana is lovely, you can see she's enjoying every minute of that stage. And so are her backing. I do hope she does really well on Saturday. 

Well, Debrah is trying on the Princess Merida look from the film Brave (2012). Good on ya girl! Why bother doing hair and make up for this... not like anyone is watching!

Not sure if this was a break or another issue. But we have a reminder of the voting numbers for the songs. And then we go to Måns. Is it just to build up suspence or is it to get the props on stage?

Måns is also not worrying about costume. He's wearing a simple grey t which isn't as body hugging as his ensemble from yesterday but we get to see his arms which we enjoy.

He's not doing all the notes but that's could be for the usual two factors - tired from last night and saving for tonight. It's not an easy job doing this you know!

Can Cyprus do another Lisa Andreas? This year probably not, but I can see this being top 10. Many artists are probably asking themselves the same question since thy didn't qualify last night or from Tuesday.

Guy goes surfing in a freezing mountain river. He managed to get a cold because of it. But apparently recovered.

"This is one tough act to follow" until the EBU decide to bend all their rules when it suits them once more. I am not one for fairness and equality in the world but I am against two-faceism. If you have a rule, stick to it. Why don't we let the guys from FIFA manage - it seems they have the same ethos.

Having said that, this will do well, and if it wins so be it. But let us please keep it a one off.

Again, this guy is amazing. He basically did the whole thing himself - song to choreography. And he is closing in on Italy in the betting odds. Expect good things fom this guy shortly. Could he be as big as Stromae?

Austrian postcard just shows us around Vienna. Nothing exceptional for the host country. Preferred some of the others.

The piano is on fire once more. Big cheer in the hall and press room - as can be imagined. Many 'mainstream' media representatives are now here and they are mainly Austrian.

Arabella talks to Conchita - and congratulates her on a great job at the green room during the previous days. But, we also find out that she was at Eurovision previously - as part of the backing vocals for France 2008. We all laugh - not.  

Thursday 21 May 2015

Haiku #11

Chain of lights switched off
Inject your golden love. And:
Some Nordic revenge

Predicting Semi 2

I'm finding Semi 2 very difficult to call. I genuinely think there's about 13 or 14 songs that 'should' qualify, based on a combination of song, performance and voting patterns. Obviously three or four of those have to miss out, so let's see what I can call.

Definitely qualifying:
1. Sweden. Because lol, obv.

Almost definitely qualifying:

2. Azerbaijan
3. Norway
4. Cyprus - I have Cyprus as my Top 3 bet, and I do think it could happen, particularly in the semi-final with this draw.

Probably qualifying:
5. Malta - my fifth most likely to qualify, but not likely to come 5th. An almost definite 9th, I'd say (see my betting article for reasons why)
6. Slovenia - I have a little bet on this to possibly miss out. I don't think it'll happen, but it was worth it with odds of 7 for the potential return.
7. Israel

On the borders:
8. Latvia - fingers very crossed, but I'm worried
9. Poland - only making it through because of the very kind draw.
10. Lithuania

Just missing out, but would/could/should make it in any other semi-final:
11. Iceland
12. Ireland
13. Montenegro

And the ones missing out:
14. Czech Republic - I had a bet on this to come last; based on rehearsal reports it probably isn't happening, but it still really could - two people from a country nobody knows or likes just shouting at each other for three minutes.
15. Switzerland
16. San Marino - avoiding last place for the Malta reasons above.
17. Portugal

Interviews: Czech Republic, Cyprus and Slovenia

To complete the second semi finalists, here are our last three interviews! Hope you enjoy and share and tweet and post and do whatever it is you do in order to tell everyone how amazed you are at these performers and help them get to the final on Saturday!


Poolside predicaciónage, part dos

Today has mostly been spent chasing the rays of sun between the ever-moving clouds, and as a big one (cloud, not ray) just came along, this seem as good a time as any to try to do some predicting.

Very pleased with my nine correct guesses on Tuesday, and even somewhat considered putting Hungary, the only one I got wrong (instead of Macedonia), in after seeing the performance, so no big shocks really. Particularly since the other two I was very unsure of beforehand (Serbia and Albania) convinced me during the show. So let's see if I can do as well today!

The obvious
1 Sweden | Surely it's winning tonight - and presumably also on Saturday.

The battle for second place
2 Azerbaijan | My favourite song (for the third year running, and I still haven't received my bribe-money! I call scam!), and even though rehearsal reports haven't been hugely promising, it should definitely qualify with ease, and presumably also get a relatively good result.
3 Slovenia | Speaking of not-too-promising rehearsal reports... It's still a song contest though, and this is a damn good one, so I'm confident. Never saw it as an actual winning candidate though.
4 Norway | I've always found its main strength (alongside the beautiful melody, obvs) the way it has some very distinctive parts that all go well together and building a "story" that keeps you interested and focused all through, and the camerawork in MGP, which I understand has been largely kept, underlined that.

Should be fine
5 Latvia | I've had my doubts about this all season, particularly in the televote, but even if it more or less fails there, I assume (enough of) the juries will adore it sufficiently.
6 Israel | Similar doubts here, although opposite regarding jury vs. televote, but it seems they got it right in underlining the harmless and fun nature of the song. I'm not keen myself, but I like that it's there.
7 Lithuania

8 Cyprus | My initial instinct was "should be a qualifier", but has drifted away more and more for me, and I'd more or less decided it'd fail. Seems most disagree though, so I've re-changed my mind yet again... Peer pressure, you say?
9 Montenegro | Obviously won't do anything in the final if it gets there - not exactly Željko's best work... It's 'nice', isn't it.
10 Switzerland | Should be a no, but somehow might just do it...

11 Ireland | Have had this as a qualifier all along, just waiting for everyone else but me and Ron to realise how nice it is, but seems people just won't...
12 Czech Republic
13 Poland
14 San Marino | lolz
15 Malta | Should be dead last, but I'm guessing they'll have some jury favours sorted out.
16 Iceland | Why would anyone that isn't a Nordic televoter vote for this? Dull, screechy and utterly unnecessary.
17 Portugal | Well, *I* love it, at least... :-(

Enjoy the semifinal, everyone!


Well, just like we did for the first, we will blog a bit about the rehearsal but only minimally. Will Portugal have to sing again? Will Iceland sound as bad as it has been? Will the 10 finalists be announced any slower?

Well, we already have a mistake - San Marino was called out but Montenegro stood up and was seen by the camera. The Slovenes are too slow so Polish Monika decides to overtake them in a move any F1 driver would be proud of!

No gay and lesbian kiss in this rehearsal again. Seems like they did it for the jury final so what are we to expect tonight?

Not sure what's going on with her hair with this one. Never really noticed it in any previous rehearsal so I'm assuming it's a new thing. Looks like he had a bee from the honey get stuck in it and she was scratching one part of her head to get it out. No dear. (San Marino intro ...) NO!

OH WHAT A SURPRISE! It seems we've been asked to switch the flashlight of the mobile phone on in this song. No one ever saw that one coming. Totally innovative idea.

Knez has had a rough night it seems. He's never been looking like a spring chicken but it seems him and Lys could have been at school together here. Still, he still gets the song out.

Apparently she was quite good in the jury final which should help. This is stronger than it was yesterday for sure. It will all depend on tonight I think.

Green is the colour of hope "as you all know". I thought it was the colour of envy. But if Conchita says hope, it's hope. Obvi.

Conchita asks the same question to Michele as she did yesterday. This time he seems to have understood. Doesn't sound like a rehearsed answer at all. Molly from Ireland is cracking up at everything. What's you name? "HA!" Where do you come from "HA!" Where are you? "HA!" - OK, those were not the questions but answers were quite that.

LOVESH! Easily going through. He also stays moody for long enough at the end. Want to just give him a good long snog!

Ok, obrigado. Até  já!

Great again, would love these to go through.

Show me Tel Aviv baby! Come on, this has to go through!

And another sure qualifier if there is any justice in this world. Latvia is a class ahead of many this year. Unfortunately not sure about any problem-giving to the leaderboard, but a true song sung by a true artist.

Another decent rendition. Should be able to get through - although I just realised I said this for th past three songs. One of them will end up losing out probably - which unfortunately I would say is CZ *unhappy face :-(

Maria is a fairy in a stage play. She's light enough I guess, can't see Bojana having had this role. Although I would pay to watch that!

When not flying accross wooden planks supported by rigging, María is one step out of time. Well, she was yesterday, today it's not as terrible as it was. Seems like she managed to get it right at the end.

Conchita small taks to Mørland (aka Kjetil) and then quickly move to talking fashion with Debrah. She then moves to Leonor who plays golf - of course she does. Why would she play anything else?

Charge your phones Europe!

When something is good you don't change it. Congrats!

The more I listen the more I like, but that's what happens with all the songs like is mentioned all the time. You cannot come here for two weeks and then not like every single one of them - or at least part of a song. Well, except Finland. That still hasn't had any likeable moment for me. Shame they've been kicked out *giggle with look of satisfaction*

Simple, likeable - still needs to shave though. But if that is as bad as I can get on this then it's a good sign.

Camera angles are still a bit weird. Raay playing the airdrums, that random woman playing the air violin ... all a bit ... random. But in a good way? I love the song to bits, one of my favs, but watching it makes me feel stupid and confused - not nice. Then again, I'm in no way representative of European good taste so what the fook do I know.

Still want some of that cake. There has been a sever lack of it here considering we're in Austria. Bad Vienna! WORST EUROVISION EVER! 
Monika seems to have slept in coz there doesn't seem to be much make-up going on. It's before the watershed dearie, there are children watching! Still find myself singing along to this - harmless enough.


RECAP an History moment etc.

Bit of an awkward pause after recap 2 since Conchita didn't get her moment right (only a few seconds late but it was noticeable). She tells us to go get a drink - we approve.

Voting closed.

Mix of the voting clips still makes me laugh. Love this clip.

Bianca and Alex from Electro Velvet are being interviewed by Arabella. Italy's Il Volo are next to be questioned, this time it's Alice with the microphone. Yodelling is left in the hands of Edurne and the Makemakes are last to be talked to.

Videos of the finalists.

Jan Ola confirms once more that the results are ready.

"Thank you very much Jan Ola."


01. Portugal
02. Poland
03. Iceland
04. Cyprus
05. Sweden
06. Lithuania

(this is going slower thankfully)

07. Malta

Arabella is informing us this is fake since there seems to be enthousiastic cheering in the hall. "But thank you for the cheering" says Alice.

08. Israel
09. Azerbaijan

"And the very last country to qualify for the grand final of the Eurovision Song Contest 2015 is... "


Thank you and good night!

Predicting part two

On Tuesday I said:

Albania and Macedonia are most certainly out.

So yeah.

Anyway I did get 8/10. Not sure if that will happen tonight as I really think it's Sweden + just about any of the others.

However, I'm going to daringly use my phrasing from Tuesday and say: Portugal and San Marino are most certainly out.

Here is the vote I did in the press centre the other day:

I was in a bit of a strange mood, I think.  While I don't completely disagree with myself, I do think I was being a tad harsh on Norway, whose first rehearsals were very underwhelming and I still wonder if viewers might bore of it before the final chorus kicks in, especially during the awkward walking bit.

Montenegro has its fans, and I am starting to suspect that it will have enough of them to sneak in even though there aren't a great deal of obvious friends there.

Iceland is another odd one. She sings it pretty awfully and for me it's a huge non-song. But other people are clearly seeing and hearing something I'm not. Despite this I'll stick to my instinct that it will go the way of Denmark, meaning both Nordics will lose their 100% qualification record since the inception of the two-semi system.

I was having similar doubts about Latvia as with Belgium in semi one, but as Europe was discerning enough to vote Loic through, I'll hope the same happens tonight with Aminata.

Potential shock? Slovenia remains my favourite song this year, but it has been quite lacking in rehearsals and I don't know. I'm a little worried for it.

So I'll go for the following ten, in decreasing order of certainty:

This means I've dropped Ireland and Switzerland since the press centre prediction. From the point of personal preference, I hope that I was right then and wrong now.

Semi-final 2 betting guide: A chain of bets for you

Good afternoon everyone. I hope you had a successful and profitable semi-final on Tuesday; I just hope you didn't do what I did and pile more money on Denmark as their odds went out throughout the evening. Oops.

As always, oddschecker is your friend - I'm not listing which bookmakers are carrying the best odds today, as several of them are very even, and they'll continue to change throughout the day.

Unlike the first semi-final, the betting market has very much coalesced around ten qualifiers. It's unusual that all the fancied acts do qualify, so it's definitely worth taking a look at the qualification market to see if there's any money to be made. The one country that immediately stands out to me is Malta. They haven't failed to qualify since 2011, and in a semi-final that has Azerbaijan, Montenegro, San Marino and the Czech Republic voting, I'd be very reticent to write off their chances. Odds of 2.2 seems a decent bet for Amber to qualify, and this is one I've personally backed quite heavily. It's also one time I really won't be sad if I lose my money!

On the other hand, if you think the bookies have mainly got it right on the qualifiers, you could go in on some more safe bets, and try and make your returns with some larger bets at lower odds. 1.29 is available for Cyprus, which seems safe based on rehearsal reports, as does 1.36 on Israel, though both of these have come in considerably during rehearsals. Alternatively, you could just place all your money on Måns to qualify, and take the 1% interest rate that a 1.01 bet offers you.

With ten such solid qualifiers, the not to qualify market is an interesting one today. Of the ten considered most safe, Poland and Iceland are (perhaps rightly) seen to be closest to the cusp, and if you think they'll miss out on a ticket to the final the bookies will offer you 2.62 and 2.75 respectively. I personally still have my wonderings about Slovenia. For a song considered by many to be very contemporary, it's been met with bemusement and indifference from several of the non-fans I've encountered. If you're brave enough to think that Marjetka and Raay could be on the first flight back to Slovenia on Friday morning, odds of 7 will see you making a very tidy profit indeed.

As clear favourite for the contest itself, it's no surprise that Sweden's odds to win the semi-final tonight are very low, with 1.4 the best you'll be offered. Disappointingly, none of the regular bookmakers seem to be offering 'anyone other than Sweden' odds tonight, but if you're willing to get into laying on betfair (see sofabet's excellent guide for more details), lay odds of 1.38 on Sweden effectively translate to odds of 3.63 for Sweden not to win the semi-final.

Perhaps more interesting again is the top three market. With Sweden potentially sucking up a lot of votes, and the potential for fan favourites like Norway or Latvia to do less well than expected, this market is wide open. With an excellent draw and a compelling performance, Cyprus at 3.25 could be a very good bet here, or you can more than double your money with odds of 2.25 on Slovenia.

As I mentioned on Tuesday, if you have faith in a song and its winning chances, now is the time to place a bet for the final. Russia's odds came in dramatically following Polina's performance in the semi-final, and the same is likely to happen tonight. You can still get odds of 3 for Sweden to win the whole thing - if the performance is very strong tonight, and particularly if Heroes gets a good reaction on social media and iTunes following the show, those odds will tumble. On the other hand, if you really have faith in something that's still seen as a bit of an outsider, like Slovenia, consider taking the odds of 51 available now - if Europe really does love it tonight, they won't be there long.

Additionally, if you're keen on betting on the final and want to get in there first, you'll need to stay up late tonight. Once the halves have been drawn in the press conference, the producers will be getting to work on the running order. Last year they were pretty quick - and that moment in the early hours will be the first impression we'll get of how the final will really shape up. Expect the money to go flying thick and fast.

Wednesday 20 May 2015

Haiku #10

All about the Måns
Potential Željko magic help

Interiews: Montenegro, Malta and Portugal.

Shortly wrapping up our interview season for 2015, three of the performers we got to talk to from Semi Final two are below. Remember to vote for your favourite on Saturday night!

Amber | Facebook




Opening is a mix of scenes from Semi Final 1. A voice introduces Mirjam, Alice and Arabella.

Fireworks, Wind Machene and quick costume change are mentioned!

But where are the artists? HELLO HI! Says Conchita from the green room.

Another parade in order of appearance from green room to stage.Waiting for how Monika is coming down. OK, she has helpers. But very tactfully, there is no big show of it. In fact, you need to be focusing to find it. Plus points.

All acts are now on stage "all good looking". Some more than others. We get a shout out to the direct finalists and a slight mention that 10 from the first semi have also joined. We get informed again on how to vote.

Pyro ready! Wind machene ready! And most importantly - VIENNA, ARE YOU READY?

Vaidas and Monika went bunjee jumping from a bridge over a river. And had a blast. 

His vocals are a bit off but gets better. No kissing by backing but the lead singers do. And cheer! You can hear the kids in the arena cheering their heads off. This makes such a good opener for everyone. It is a decent enough performance. I've always managed to get Lithuania wrong. Say it will fail, it qualifies, say it qualifies it fails ... I'm not playing any more.

Molly gets taken to a bee farm - to continue her addiction to honey. Added to her addiction to chocolate she should stay away from:

Simple enough staging for Ireland but is good for the song. It takes us back to how Ireland used to be when they used to simply win with a decent simple song sung exceedingly well. It's unfortunately a bit too early in the draw though I think. Molly smiles at the end, that simple sweet smile of a young artiste. Deserves good things.

Anita and Michele get taken to the Opera. They have a nice dance together dressed to impress. 

The world is still spinning in the wrong way - which probably doesn't make much difference to people - but to me it does. IT'S WRONG. There is so much chemistry between these two. You can see they love eachother so much. Really, warms my heart and I can say I feel jealous. I wish someone cared for me as much as the spark between these. I also won the lottery three times in a row and have been told by HRH Prince Harry that William is thinking of leaving Kate for me. 

Knez goes finishing. Well, can't see him bungee jump or scale down buildings can we. Nice easy sport for him to do.

Well, this is still doing as well as any Željko song. I quite believe we will see it on Saturday. Staging, singing, lighting, performance - all works.

Aber goes jumping out of a plane. She said she always wanted to do this ad it gave her the opportunity to do so. It was freezing. 

Coming after Montenegro this just seems, lacking. It's a shame since she is such a sweetie but the Maltese will need all their Saints and Demons routing for them in order to get this through. Then again, a couple of people said it will qualify. So I choose to believe them.

Conchita talks to Michele noting that she remembers him from last year - giving the points for San Marino. Michele doesn't understand the question. Fail.

Next in line for a Conchita question, is Molly who is asked about bingo (reference to numbers). Cinchita is shit at maths.

Kjetil and Debrah go on a lake using some (I guess) traditional wooden boats. They go meet some friends. No drowning anyone, still no clearer on what this terrible thing was that he did.

Pure class. The camera work is great. Now, think of how little you will see with the numerous flags in the way. Just a little bit of a smile too quickly on the ending, Kjetil needs to remain moody for just a couple of seconds longer for the effect to take hold. 

Leonor goes rock climbing. And gets all the way to the top. Well, congrats dear. 

It's grown on us. But it took the best part of three months. Three minutes will not be enough for the viewers at home. To get into it I mean, to switch over three minutes is more than enough. 

They get a key and walk over a feckingly high suspension bridge to get to a castle. Václav is clad in a knights outfit including helmet.

Marta was at the euroclub last night and said that Václav was feeling a bit unwell but you wouldn't know this listening to the two. Works great and we so want them to qualify - from all the artists I think these are the ones who want it the most - just so they can show what the Czech Republic can do. 

Nadav is taken to spray paint a cable car. He does a good job and then enjoys a ride to the top of the mountain in his artwork.

The kids are loving this. When I first head this I was thinking no, just no. but now ... such a yes. Big fat yes. 

Aminata goes running through the streets and forms 'art' with her and her friends aruond the town. They select parts of town, walls, corners, holes, and fill them with their body ... it will make sence when you see it - and it's a good idea. 

Vocally it is great. Visually it's good. If Latvia do not get through with this then we know there is something very very wrong with Europe. What else do they need?

Always seems to be one postcard I totally miss due to some reason or another. Unfortunately this time it was the Azeri one.

The act is second to none. Great backdrop and the story flows and makes sence. Elnur sings well, and the backing accompanies him well. Should find it easy to qualify.

Mistake. The yshowed the postcard for Austria instead of the postcard for Iceland.

Awkward start. Starts too low. María gets back in eventually. You'd think we had northern lights every day in Iceland.  She's not managing to get many of the important notes. Has she broke? How will she become unbroken?! Comic genious I am!
Apparently, 99% of Icelandic TV viewers watched ESC last year. Great.
Norway is next to be interviewed. Conchita then shuffles her way to the Portuguese table. Her Portuguese is a bit rusty - as is Leonor's answer. 

4 famous words - EUROPE, CHARGE YOUR PHONES. Only a few more songs to go.

"Hej to Sweden!"

Måns is dressed in somethin that looks like a spacesuit. He is accompanied through a cave inside a mountain. The scenery does look moonline - which is why I guess the suit is there.

He is a bit too quick singing the first verse. The package is still exceedigly good, but with songs like Russia and France what will be chosen on Saturday? We are taking it for granted he is there. Huge roar of cheers from audience in hall and in press centre.
Mélanie went ice hockey playing on a frozen lake. Lovely. Frosty the Mascot and all.

Her time to shine - apparently. I think Europe will disagree.

John goes paddle boarding down a river. He seems thrilled about it. Good ol' John.

Another performance which went simply well. Will it be enough to see him through to Saturday though? Bets are open.

Where would they take the Slovenes if it wasn't going to be with Lipizzaner horses? Raay and Marjetka laugh and pet the horsies and then these go galloping though the field.

It's a great song but some of the camera work is a bit - well, not my taste. It looks like there is just something a bit missing. It will still qualify though.

Monika gets taken to make tier cakes. We approve. Now let us taste it please.

Nice camera work and strong vocals from Monika but I don't know if this is enough to be in the top 10 on Thursday - which is a shame. 

"Europe start voting". Recap over we go back to have information melanges about Eurovision and Austria. Austria seems to have invented the world. I thought that was the Greeks. I was mistaken it seems.

Plugging of the DVD and CD. And off to recap number two.

After the recap, jus over 60 seconds left to vote.

We love Arabella: "If you haven't voted yet, you only have ... wait ... look... blablabla seconds left to vote!" She can stay.

Arabella and Alice close the voting after a countdown. 

Mirjam then takes us to a mix of clips of when voting went wrong or the best moments from the voting past - you couldn't leave out "I don't have it". Loving this. 

We then have a chat with Monika from Poland. Well, her stand-in anyway. No pun intended, that's what they're called. Then on to John from Cyprus. And Måns also will get a quick interview.

Arabella talks to Amber, while Alice then talks to Maraaya. "Thank you and good luck". 

Back to the seven direct finalists. Alice announces the big 5, the special guest and the winner of last year.

The cut to the video for these did not work. 

They then need a microphone and start talking in German. Since I don't speak it ... 

This was the light check and now that it's done we can continue. "Question is, with what?" asks Arabella - again, I need to be her fan.

Repeat of the dialogue previously covered, and videos now work.

Mirjam is with us once the videos are over. She asks Jan Ola if the results are ready. He tries to say something but she doesn't hear him. He repeats that the results are ready. 

"That sounds good" replies Mirjam. Arabella and Alice are on stage behind the podium ready to inform us of the 10 qualifiers. Alice speaks in German so no idea what she is going on about.

01. Latvia
02. Switzerland
03. Sweden

still too fast

04. Slovenia 
05. Norway 
06. Lithuania 
07. Iceland 
08. Portugal 
09. Ireland 

"... and the very last country that made it to the grand final of the Eurovisio Song Contest 2015 is ... " 

10. Montenegro

It is the largest final ever with 27 countries competing. They do the whole "Good morning Australia, Good night Europe." and it's done.

Tuesday 19 May 2015

Haiku #9

Italian Voice
Falling down from the rooftops
Not always Denmark

Poolside predicaciónage

Right, I've solved a few killer sudokus, read a few issues of Attitude (one had Chris Mears wearing not much at all - j'approve), trained my leg on the stairs in the sun, fought a beaver in the pool and now poured myself a little rosé, getting nearly ready for tonight's semi final. It's Eurovision today! But do I have a clue who's making it tonight? Well, yes and no.

I feel pretty confident about seven of them. And frankly, in any other random Eurovision semi, I could easily see the rest not qualifying at all. But unless the Austrians and/or Jon Ola are going to surprise us, there will be ten qualifiers, somehow...

So here we go - this is my prediction of the actual full ranking, which of course we won't know for sure how right I get until after the final, but hopefully I'll get as many of the ten right as possible. According to my track record, I tend to get eight or nine right (I don't think I've ever got all ten, actually - maybe once), so let's see who I'm getting wrong tonight!

The two that seem quite obvious, but are they too obvious...?
1 Russia
2 Estonia

Third places in semis are often where the random starts, so anything can happen from here on...
3 Belgium | It bloody better well be.
4 Greece | I've loved this all along, and felt a bit lonely in the process - it's been comforting to see others starting to approve more as rehearsals started.
5 Armenia | Controversial, loud, horrid, amazing.
6 Georgia
7 Romania | Message or not, simply a strong song that should make it comfortably, though I'm not expecting to sweep the scoreboard.

This is where it gets tricky... The rest really aren't qualifiers to me, they will just accidentally fall above the line
8 Serbia | My gut has said qualifier all along, but everyone else has had me doubting...
9 Albania | Whereas my gut always said non-qualifier here (despite growing to really like it), while it for some reason has been seen as somewhat safe, but rehearsal reports haven't been exactly promising... ÆÆÆÆ
10 Macedonia?!?

Welcome bye bye!
11 Finland | Should do average with juries, as I assume few will like it, but equally few will dare to put it properly low when they get their name attached to it. So it all comes down to what the televoters think... I'm leaning towards my instinct here - that the song is shit.
12 Denmark
13 Netherlands | Could do it for just being very competent, I guess...
14 Hungary
15 Moldova
16 Belarus

Have a great night, everyone!


Apologies, got in a bit late today. No, I'm all here after the fantastic Israeli party but just was having a bit of a lie in. At the party yesterday we had Amber, Kurt Calleja, María Ólafs, Il Volo, Michele & Anita, Elnur (who sang part of Hava Nagila) and some others. Always a party not to miss.

So, what have we seen up to now today:

Still sings competently well. Qualifier - likely.

THEY GOT THE CIRCLE! THEY GOT THE CIRCLE! And it didn't look weird! Now let's hope they can repeat tonight. Qualifier - likely

Another greatt rendition. Qualifier - likely

Trijntje is in the same dress as yesterday afternoon - so we assume she's keeping this now. Qualifier - unsure.

I have decided to refrain from commenting on this. It seems whatever anyone says about this it ends up being taken too much to heart by people so it's not worth the drama. Qualifier - you decide.

Interview Loïc and Trijntje.

Much wind, many light, breath. Qualifier - yes.

Well, it seems the crying is part of the act since she cried again now! No need to worry, it's all part of it. Qualifier - yes.

Again, this is not bad. It's just not attractive enough to make it an easy qualifier. Unlikely.

Gone are the days when clothing ripped off during a performance magically disappeared from stage. Bojana's white robes litter the ground making it look messy. Beauty may not lie but cleanliness is supreme. Qualifier - too close to call. It could go either way.

Nothing else needed - yes.

Just like with FYR Macedonia, this is a decent enough song, just not strong enough in the semi. Unlikely.

Absolute belter! Top 3 in the final is hers, or it's ROBBED!

Talking to Elina and Stig. Elina shows she doesn't only sing cute puppy-eye songs. Then off to Bojana.
Reminder again for the DVD and CD and #eurovision.

One of the other difficult ones to judge. It's Danish enough to make it work but in a year like this will being "Danish enough" mean anything? 

i assume she's saving her voice. Did not sound as good as it has been in the past rehearsals. She did the same yesterday so there is a trend. I would like to say yes but it also falls in the question mix.

All over again. The more I watch and listen the more I realise how I have no fecking clue of what is going to happen with half of these songs. The message is good, the song is mediocre. Hungary beats Romania on the combination of the two - but is Europe willing to have two of these on Saturday?

Finally, something that doesn't make me judge my capabilities of having my own thoughts and opinions. Not that my thoughts and opinions are much different to anyone else's on this song but at least I know it's a qualifier. Unlike yesterday, she sings it as it should be - last warm up before the big night. 

Slight glitch with the graphics which had the rolling 'telephone numbers' sequence going on when the voting hadn't been opened yet. No need to redo so we continue with the actual recap once the voting is open.

Noting different to yesterday so just read that one if you need. No hiccups, no champagne, no petits fours, NOTHING!

01. Greece

And again a technical issue.Mirjam is a lier. Apparently.

So now...

01. Moldova (reminds me of Igor's voting method)

02. FYR Macedonia (this time with FYR mentioed)
03. Hungary
04. Georgia
05. Estonia
06. Belarus
07. Armenia

Small talk for suspence.

08. Greece
09. Denmark

Last finalist from the first semi final of 2015.

10. The Netherlands. Les Pays Bas.

Again, in order of appearance not announcement.

End of show. Only a few hours until the show begins!!!


Semi-final 1 betting guide: Bets are like thunder*

Sure, you've made your predictions, but are you ready to put your money where you mouth is? Ahead of tonight's semi-final, I'm going to take a look at some of the betting odds available for various outcomes, and see if I can identify where the value is.

The odds I quote below are likely to change in the run up to tonight, so, as always, oddschecker is your friend.

Firstly, who will win the semi-final? There seems to be strong consensus from the press corps that it's between Estonia and Russia, with Russia nosing ahead quite considerably in recent days. If you're in agreement, the best odds you can get for Russia to win the semi is 1.83, at William Hill - this means that if you bet £10, you will get £18.30 back (i.e. £8.30 profit). On the other hand, if you feel Stig and Elina's duet will top Polina's big ballad, you can pick up odds of 4 at either William Hill or Boylesports.

With two such clear frontrunners, perhaps the more interesting money is available for a top 3 finish - i.e. who will come 3rd? 3rd place in the semi-final can often be something slightly surprising that then fails to score highly in the final, and therefore the front runners here (after Russia and Estonia) of Georgia (2.25, 888Sport), Greece (2.25, unibet) and Romania (3.5, bwin) would all seem worth a punt. Albania have fallen from grace during the rehearsals, and their odds of 3.75 (bwin) for a top three finish seem rather stingy. On the other hand, if you want to win some relatively safe money, you could opt to bet on Russia or Estonia to come top three. At odds of 1.18 and 1.4 respectively, you won't be making much, but if you're confident, it's effectively a very short-term-high-interest rate account!

Bear in mind of course that you won't see any of your winnings for winner/top three markets until the full results are published following the final. If you want a more immediate return, the place to look is the qualification market.

Most of the bookies are offering qualification odds, though there's considerably less value to be had than in previous years. Finland are one who have really fallen in recent weeks, and you can get odds of 2 (i.e. doubling your money) at Skybet or Ladbrokes if you think they'll make it through. I'd also argue that Denmark (1.91, Coral) could be worth a punt - they've often done rather better than fans expect, particularly in semi-finals. The biggest outsiders in the qualifier market are Netherlands (3.6, Boylesports) and Moldova (3, various sites). They're a risk, but as I wrote in my prediction piece, I do think there's a chance either of them could make it - and anyone who was brave enough to bet on San Marino or Iceland last year made a tidy profit.

On the other hand, if you're a negative person like me, there's fun to be had in the not to qualify market. I'm still quite sceptical about Armenia, and there are odds of 3.75 (at Skybet) if you feel that six people all shouting different songs at the top of their lungs won't engage with Europe's voters. And if you're not convinced Belgium is really connecting, Skybet will similarly give you 3.5 odds. And if you're crazy enough to think Russia might somehow fail to reach the final for the first time ever, Skybet will give you odds of 26 to throw your money away.

If you're serious about your betting, it's worth already thinking about the final. If there's a song you have your eye on tonight and you think you might want to take a punt on it making the final Top 10, Top 4 or even winning the whole thing, it's worth placing that bet now. After tonight you'll have a much better idea of its chances - but so will the rest of Europe. The people who won big on the Common Linnets and Conchita last year were those who were brave enough to place their bets before the semi-finals. I'll be taking a closer look at these markets closer to the final, but if you think that, for example, Georgia or Greece might be an outsider for the top ten, it could be worth getting on the betting sites now.

That's just a brief overview of what's available tonight - do have a browse on oddschecker, and do feel free to post any betting-related questions in the comments below and I'll do my best to answer them.

(* no, I know they're not, but then neither's time. Go complain to Belarus.)

And the qualifiers are

But really, how should I know? I am usually the worst predictor among the ESC Nation bloggers, and obviously feel the burden of responsibility to maintain this position!

So in declining degree of certainty:

Belgium really should, but I'm still worried it could be a bit too leftfield and will look strange on screen. Serbia and Denmark could certainly sneak in, Albania and Macedonia are most certainly out.

In comparison this is what I handed in to the press centre poll the other day (as you can see I decided that taste should prevail with Belgium in instead of Moldova).

Predicting Semi 1

Time for me to predict my qualifiers for this semi-final. I actually do find this one much easier to predict than the second semi-final, which I'll be struggling to write about in a couple of days time.

That said, there are a few songs where I'm really not confident about my prediction, partly because of the type of year it is. My instinct, for example, is that Moldova will be both unlikeably trashy and forgettable on first, but it might just stand out for being a bit fun in a year of overwhelming seriousness. There's also a few that I have no idea what to do with - Finland is one, and so are Serbia and Hungary. They really could go either way. And like last year's first semi-final, there could easily be one or two entries that effectively 'luck' into qualification.

1. Russia
2. Estonia
3. Georgia
4. Romania
5. Belgium
6. Greece
7. Finland
8. Netherlands
9. Denmark
10. Hungary

11. Armenia
12. Serbia
13. Belarus
14. Albania
15. Macedonia
16. Moldova

Interview: FYR Macedonia

Our final interview from Semi 1 contestants. This time the lovely Daniel Kajmakovski. This guy is amazing, don't know where he gets his energy from. If I only had half of his I would be quite pleased with myself. Unfortunately we didn't get to do the quick round questions but let's see what he had to say for our other ones.