ESC Gunslingers First Hail Of Bullets

Mar 29, 2012 by

The ESC betting markets right now or rather, lack of them, reminds us of the stand off at the end of Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid. No one’s taken a shot yet and we are still awaiting the first move. We, the ESC punters, are like Butch and Sundance, taking shelter, composing ourselves for imminent battle, getting ready to face the music, fully prepared to come out all guns blazing. The bookies are cast as the Bolivian army. They surround us, they outnumber us, and in theory they hold all the aces, yet few have been willing to put their heads above the parapet.
It’s been 10 days since the semi-final draws and the Big 5 plus host Azerbaijan drew their starting positions in the final, and barely a shot has been fired, with the market options remaining thin on the ground and still no Outright semi-final prices available. By way of an opening salvo, here are 6 punts we would recommend ESC gunslingers take aim at:

1. UK vs GreeceGreece 6-5 (StanJames) – The UK has a terrible draw in 1, and while Humpy’s tune could prove a hit with juries – potential jury success qualified by the fact there are many other jury-friendly tunes attempting the same feat – after 25 other songs have followed, and given the UK’s lowly status by way of voting allies, it’s hard to see the UK receiving much of a televote, and managing to finish above televoting colossi Greece. Qualification from semi-final 1 looks a formality for Greece and once taking its position in the final, regardless of draw position, the telegenic Eleftheria Eleftheriou singing the catchy pop tune ‘Aphrodisiac’ looks capable of bagging Greece a 9th consecutive top 10 finish.

2. Cyprus vs GreeceGreece 8-13 (StanJames) – This is a battle between two of the closest voting friends in the competition. In a twist of fate, both nations have produced catchy, upbeat pop tunes sung by young attractive females. On the face of it, Ivi bopping around to ‘La, La Love’ against Eleftheria strutting her stuff to ‘Aphrodisiac’ looks too close to call. But going on YouTube footage, we reckon Eleftheria has a stronger live vocal compared to Ivi. Until rehearsals we won’t know how much of a gulf there is but if Ivi doesn’t bring her A-game to the song, we could even see Cyprus struggling to qualify from semi-final 1, whereas Greece, even from the 3 slot, looks something of a safe qualifying bet given Greece’s voting strength in this semi. If Cyprus falls at the semi-final stage, you will collect on the bet. If both progress, Greece’s voting strength will come even greater to the fore, and regardless of draw positions, we struggle to see Cyprus finishing ahead of Greece in the final.

3. Top BalticEstonia 4-5 (StanJames, WilliamHill) – Estonia only has Latvia and Lithuania to beat here. Latvia will have a huge job on its hands to even qualify from semi-final 1. With the drama of Iceland and catchy pop of Greece preceding it, and the impressive vocal of Albania’s ballad and party pop of Romania following it, we can see it getting lost from its 4 draw. Lithuania has drawn the pimp slot in semi-final 2 which is the most positive thing going for ‘Love Is Blind’. The blindfold gimmick used by Donny Martell has to rank as one of the most nauseating staging elements we have ever seen but given the fickle nature of ESC voters, this could further boost its televote and help Lithuania make the final. Estonia should make the final more comfortably from semi-final 2 given the, in theory, enormous jury appeal of ‘Kuula’ and a handy draw for televoting purposes in 14. If Lithuania does also make the final, Estonia should see it off for sure, given its greater jury appeal, not to mention Estonia possessing a stronger base of voting allies than Lithuania come the final.

4. Top BalkanSerbia 6-5 (BetVictor) – This strikes us as the best value to appear so far. The telegenic Zeljko Joksimovic singing ‘Synonym’ looks set to sweep the Balkan bloc much the same way Dino Merlin did last year, representing Bosnia & Herzegovina with ‘Love In Rewind’. Dino managed to bag 5 maximums in the final last year, and ended up finishing 6th despite the lousy draw of 2. Based on that sort of return, Serbia looks to have excellent prospects of faring as well, if not better. While we wouldn’t back against Greece landing a top 10 finish, we expect it to be flirting towards the lower end of the 10, whereas Serbia has the potential to be challenging for top spot. Where Dino failed last year was with the juries, finishing only 11th, whereas B&H was 6th on the televote. We reckon Zeljko could achieve a better position with both constituencies whereas we reckon Greece is the sort of throwaway pop tune that could easily be dented by the anti-diaspora trend we have seen among the juries in recent years.

5. Top Big 5Spain 11-4 (Stan James, WilliamHill) – We’ve already given a big write up to Spain and why we believe it has the potential to do very well this year. In this market it has 4 countries to beat. The UK looks massively up against it from the 1 draw. France probably required a late draw to make any sort of impact with televoters and will struggle from 9. It doesn’t help Italy to be drawn so early in 10, though we could see Italy doing reasonably well with juries. Germany, drawn 20, follows Spain drawn 19. Roman Lob is a telegenic guy which will aid Germany’s televote but we cannot see ‘Standing Still’ having the same jury appeal as ‘Quedate conmigo’ assuming Pastora smashes it out of the ballpark when she performs in front of the juries on the Friday night. Given this is Spain’s most impressive entry in years, we reckon it could be their turn to receive jury favour among the big 5, and its late draw gives it the chance to land a decent televote total. Overall, it looks to have more going for it than the other 4 countries and 11-4 looks on the big side.

6. Group To Provide Most Combined Points Top 8 Evens (StanJames) – We’ve been doing our maths on the last 3 ESCs, and have reached the conclusion the prices here are round the wrong way. In 2009, admittedly aided by the Rybak landslide, the Top 8 collected a massive 1,518pts, The Field received 918pts. In 2010, the Top 8 made up 1,296pts; The Field 966pts. Last year the Top 8 collected 1,252pts; The Field 1,242.
So in all of the last 3 years Top 8 has landed the money. This year there are 26 competing countries so Top 8 will have to surpass 18 other countries, as opposed to 17 in the previous 3 years, but we still heavily favour Top 8 coming out on top. 2011 was a rather lacklustre affair with the points spread far and wide. This year, we anticipate a leaderboard more in line with 2010, with the Top 8 amassing big scores, and there remains the potential for a runaway winner in Sweden.

Recalling what happens next to Butch and Sundance, we can only hope the same fate does not await those intrepid punters who take our advice and pile in on the above six bets.
Rob Furber

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