Czech Bounces

May 9, 2023 by

Czech Bounces

Sadly, we have been unable to provide the traditional daily rehearsal coverage at Eurovision this year due to the media black-out.

In a peculiar first, everyone has been left scrabbling around for clues online, and clutching at straws for the most part, with only the brief video clips released following 2nd rehearsals to initially go on.

Yesterday was the first chance to see semi 1 as it will be seen tonight, live on BBC1 at 8pm UK time, to try and cut through the intense social media noise surrounding this year’s Contest, and aim to apply some logic and clarity to proceedings. Well, that’s the intention but the sound feed was poor and there’s still a lot to learn this evening.

Finland has had the most heat around it of any entry this year and the money has been piling on Kaarija since the start of the rehearsal period. That first glimpse of him at song start emerging from the wooden crate was enough for Finland to hit a new low of 3.5.

Sweden had become an uneasy favourite, drifting out above Evens prior to a return to 1.73 as of now. The hardcore fan community is in a state of rapture regarding ‘Cha, Cha, Cha’ while many have been eager to nit-pick Sweden which does tend to be the case with Eurovision favourites.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this evening’s semi-final 1 is whether it re-invigorates the Finnish gamble, or it starts to look like ‘Game, Set and Match’ for Sweden. UK viewers seeing ‘Cha, Cha, Cha’ for the first time may well buy into it.

In Baku 11 years ago, naysayers were arguing ‘Euphoria’ was an untested genre and Loreen mumbled too much throughout the performance. This year, her vocals have again been criticised and the slightly different stage set up for ’Tattoo’ queried.

The most interesting aspect of this evening’s semi-final 1 is whether it re-invigorates the Finnish gamble, or it starts to look like ‘Game, Set and Match’ for Sweden

And yet, watching Loreen last night, her performance blew the rest of the field out of the water and to my eye it’s a virtual carbon copy of what we saw at Melodifestivalen.

Performing from the pimp slot, Finland is going to be hard to beat on the televote tonight. It’s a clear 2-horse race, ideally you want to have both green for the semi win, but Sweden is the value at anything 3.6 or above.

A tantalising question is, which nation joins Finland and Sweden on the semi 1 podium. It looks to rest between Israel, Czech Republic and Norway. Alessandra is partially hamstrung by opening semi 1, along with having to compete for televote points up against two strong Scandi rivals.

She didn’t have her best run through last night and while some may think that’s irrelevant, the juries were still scoring and the EBU will be looking at the 50/50 result when it composes the grand final running order.

Noa’s ‘Unicorn’ feels quite divisive this year as an uptempo entry. While some think it is perfectly serviceable and made for a tv audience, others see it as lacking cohesion and a distinctly lacklustre Doron Medalie effort.

Noa’s vocal was poor on yesterday’s first run through but better last night. Is the dance break, and Noa’s moment giving it her best J-Lo in ‘Hustlers’ impression, enough to win over the audience? Possibly, but the argument against would be, Chanel and Eleni Foureira had stage shows that serviced their songs whereas this feels crowbarred in to a track in ‘Unicorn’ that remains a bit of a mishmash.

Israel could grab third place but the value bet here has to be Czech Republic. Vesna has the better of the running order in the 13 slot and ‘My Sister’s Crown’ has come together really well on the big stage in Liverpool.

It stood out last night and it conveys its sisterhood message well. It’s an empowerment anthem but it’s all done with a lightness of touch and real artistry in terms of the choreography and colour palette.

In terms of the qualification picture there appear to be six locks in Finland, Sweden, Norway, Israel, Czech Rep and Moldova. That said, Moldova has a small hint of vulnerability but the little fella on the flute and the ethno flavour should see it through.

Malta, Latvia, Ireland and Azerbaijan have all been attracting optimistic money to qualify, but it looks on the cards for all four to miss out, which would be a great shame for Latvia, in particular, which is high quality in its genre.

It’s an empowerment anthem but it’s all done with a lightness of touch and real artistry in terms of the choreography and colour palette

The last four qualification places look to lie between Croatia, Serbia, Switzerland, Netherlands and Portugal. Logic dictates that televote-only is in Croatia’s favour because it is as mad as a box of frogs. You also get the sense, watching in running order, that it partially steals the show in the first half of semi 1.

Serbia’s Luke Black is an acquired taste with his industrial-sounding song and he is on dangerously early performing from the 3 slot. This looks, on paper, a very friendly semi for Serbia, however, with the likes of Croatia, Switzerland and France poised to lend it support but Serbia isn’t foolproof and looks too short to qualify at 1.33.

We know that jury-appealing songs are more vulnerable to NQ this year, which leaves both Switzerland and Netherlands at risk. They have done a good job souping up the presentation of Remo Ferrer’s ‘Watergun’ and he is one of the stronger live vocalists in semi 1. That still might not count for much given it’s televote-only.

The concerning precedents for Switzerland Q backers are, Marius Bear last year for Switzerland, 16th of 17 on the televote in semi 1, and Vincent Bueno for Austria in 2021, 15th of 17 in semi 2 with ‘Amen’.

They had poor draws in 4 and 5 respectively, but Remo doesn’t have the best of running order positions in 8, squeezed between the more memorable Croatia and Israel. Switzerland also looks on the short side at 1.4.

Seeking some novelty flamenco appeal is Portugal’s Mimicat, but ‘Ai Coracao’ comes across as a flimsy effort, and it’s questionable whether enough fans are passionate enough to vote for it in enough numbers around Europe to enable it to make the top 10 in semi 1.

It’s another entry that looks too short to qualify at 1.41. If it does make it through at the expense of either Switzerland or Netherlands it will serve as an illustration of how the goalposts have firmly shifted in this new 100% televote semi-final format.

Netherlands has had a rocky road to the Liverpool Arena. At the pre-concerts, Mia & Dion struggled live but a re-arrangement of the song and some good lighting and camera work have worked wonders with ‘Burning Daylight’. It feels like a, too-good-not-to-qualify entry, and at least has a clear point of difference.

The concerning precedents for Switzerland Q backers are, Marius Bear last year for Switzerland, 16th of 17 on the televote in semi 1, and Vincent Bueno for Austria in 2021, 15th of 17 in semi 2 with ‘Amen’

The chemistry between them is much more palpable and there is a charm and intimacy about their performance that should enable it to resonate, especially given its late running order position.

The key element tonight will be the live vocal delivery. The harmonies sounded fine last night but Dion is clearly uncomfortable with the falsetto.

We are likely dealing in extremely fine margins but my counter-intuitive call is Portugal NQ, Netherlands Q.

In summary, Rob’s qualifiers – Finland, Sweden, Czech Rep, Israel, Norway, Moldova, Netherlands, Croatia, Serbia, Switzerland.

Best of luck to everyone trading tonight and please do let us know your 10 qualifiers and any value bets you have spotted in the vast array of markets out there.

Matt’s thoughts:

My winner tonight is Finland. While the staging and the song sadly descends into cabaret, this is designed for the arena and the TV viewer at home. Its chances of winning on Saturday may have diminished, but tonight it feels like a public-vote powerhouse.

Sweden should come second, but Loreen’s eyes are on Saturday when I expect her to overturn tonight’s result. I have long championed Israel and I think this is a good bet for Top 3 tonight. This is a highly polished pop performance from Noa, and soundly in the mix for the each-way places at the weekend.

Another I have long believed in is the Slavic sisterhood anthem from the Czech Republic which I have qualifying in 4th and remains a great top 10 bet for the weekend.

Norway suffers from being so familiar at this point of the season but this does not diminish its chances with most of the casuals still to join the party. With a second-half draw, this has a role to play, especially in the crowded Nordic playing field.

These five are pretty clear of the rest so I wont be daft enough to predict the rest in order, but my next four to qualify are:

Moldova which does the classic Moldovan trick of elevating a pretty repetitive ethno-jam into something more worthy.

Croatia is anything but worthy, but some things are not worth overthinking. This is televote catnip and gets through on social media buzz alone.

Serbia isn’t quite working, but Luke Black has charm and the song and his gothic freak show are at least memorable.

Switzerland is the classic jury song which might become a springer in the grand final. Tonight is tougher but Remo’s warm vocal and Sacha Jean-Baptiste’s decent staging concept should get it over the line.

Croatia is anything but worthy, but some things are not worth overthinking. This is televote catnip and gets through on social media buzz alone

So that’s nine and the last qualifying spot is almost a coinflip. The Dutch package is beset with problems. A lack of chemistry, telegenic appeal, questionable vocals but a decent running order, while Portugal is equally problematic. A dark stage, an unfulfilling song, but with something of a USP if you are into musical theatre.

I have plumped for the latter so for clarity, my 10 qualifiers are:

Finland, Sweden, Israel, Czech Rep, Norway, Moldova, Switzerland, Serbia, Croatia, Portugal

11th – Netherlands

This leaves four certain non qualifiers. The Wiggles-inspired Malta, the Bluetones-inspired Azerbaijan, the utterly uninspired Ireland, which deserves no further comment, and the rather lovely Latvia, which is the unlucky victim of the new voting system.

Good luck with your bets tonight.


  1. PeterNL

    Thanks gentlemen, as always it’s very interesting to read your thoughts!

    With only 15 participants and a few really hopeless songs, it’s a shame that a shock-NQ of e.g. Serbia or Moldova is highly unlikely. My qualifiers would be the same as the 10 that Matt has chosen.

    Of course I really hope that Mia & Dion can qualify for the final, and from this slot I don’t rule it out at all. I think vocally it should be good enough and it looks very nice on screen. I would say that if it qualifies, few casual viewers would heavily disagree with it. The main worry that I have is if enough people will actually pick up the phone to really make it happen. With a lot of 12/10/8-scores likely to go to Finland/Sweden/neighbours/diaspora, there should be quite some 5/6/7 scores to compensate for the inevitable 0/1/2 scores that will also show up, in order to make it over the necessary ~50 points.

    For now I think it’s Portugal that will take the 10th place. Not that the song is much better. Matt’s description of an unfulfilling song sounds very correct to me. But it stands out a little more. And it could get a 15-20 points start premium from France and Switzerland. And I don’t really see where the Netherlands could compensate for this difference in the rest of the scores.

    Switzerland doesn’t feel completely safe for me either. A lack of allies and a not so televoting friendly song. It’s funny how Top 10 on Saturday might even be easier than today. But I think the running order may not be that bad for them. As something that looks very normal, in between a man in a golden suit, the remarkable Croatian entry, the intense act from Israel and the little man from Moldova, it can attract its own audience, that consider it to be a quality song, rather than a circus act.

    Anyway, I wish you all good luck for tonight!

  2. Montell

    ESC 2023 SF1 prediction:
    01. Finland
    02. Sweden
    03. Norway
    04. Israel
    05. Moldova
    06. Czech Republic
    07. Croatia
    08. Serbia
    09. Portugal
    10. Switzerland
    11. Malta
    12. Netherlands
    13. Azerbaijan
    14. Latvia
    15. Ireland

    My biggest bets in this semi final are:
    Latvia NQ @1.40
    Czech Republic No TOP 3 @1.52

  3. Mark dowd

    Surprised you both gave such short shrift to Malta which has come in from 4.0 to 2.2 overnight. Realistic chance they may bump Switzerland/Netherlands/Portugal off the last qualifying slot.All six at ESC United had this as Q.

    • Rob

      Found it a very long 3 minutes last night, Mark & it has a terrible running order. The staging is really saying, ‘please be entertained by these random elements thrown in because we know the song sucks’ or, at least, that was my impression. On a par with Latvia last year imho.

  4. Matthew Tuson

    Malta are definitely not a sure NQ. I was at the jury show last night and The Busker went down very well

  5. neomichael

    Hi guys from my side, seeking for value bets, my picks would be the following:

    -Malta 1.40 (deathspot , no allies, not going well in the polls)
    -Portugal 2.80 (early draw, not many allies)
    -Croatia 2.65 (Apart from being repulsive , I believe Finland and maybe Malta compete for the same funny/party vibe so I hope their would stole some of their votes, not many allies as well)
    -Moldova 8.00 (not going well in the latest polls)

    -Netherlands 1.80 (usually duets go well, late order)
    -Switzerland 1.40 (oasis of quality after Croatia)
    -Azerbaijan 6.50 (historically Azerbaijan goes very well and its very late in the order)

    Top 2 positions in Semi:
    -Finland & Sweden 1.30 (based on all recent polls)

    Good luck with your investments!!

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