Feel The Passion Of Albania Qualification Punt

Apr 14, 2011 by

Under the spotlight today is the qualifying/non-qualifying value in the ESC semi-final 1. What we have to go on at this stage is the draw, the historic voting strength of each nation, and the quality of the song.
Looking back on the 2010 semi-finals offers some interesting clues. A crude ranking of semi-final 1 reveals that 8 of the top 10 in terms of voting allies in that particular semi-final all qualified. And an identical pattern emerges in semi 2 – with 8 of the top 10 also qualifying there. The 4 that figured in the two top 10s but failed to qualify were Estonia, Macedonia, Lithuania and Sweden.
Lithuania’s song was ‘Eastern European Funk’. Macedonia offered ‘Jas Ja Imam Silata’. Malcolm Lincoln’s ‘Siren’ represented Estonia, and Sweden gave us ‘This Is My Life’ sung by Anna Bergendahl.
It’s fair to say the first 3 on this list – Lithuania (finishing position – 12th), Macedonia (15th) and Estonia (14th) – were all poor ESC entries, and Sweden (11th) was very unlucky just to miss out on qualification. Interestingly, 3 of these songs also had early draws – Lithuania drawn 1, Estonia 3 and Sweden 6.
Conversely, the 4 nations outside the top 10 but which managed to overcome historical vote weakness and qualify from their semis last year were Iceland (3rd) with ‘Je Ne Sais Quoi’, Portugal (4th) with Ha Dias Assim sung by Filipa Azevedo, Romania’s (4th) ‘Playing With Fire’ and Israel’s (8th) Harel Skaat singing ‘Milim’.
All 4 of these were arguably above-standard ESC entries and 3 of them had double figure draws – Romania drawn 10, Portugal 14, and Iceland 17 and last in its semi-final.
So where does this leave us regarding semi-final 1 in Dusseldorf? In terms of potential non-qualifiers, looking for weak songs with an early draw and a lack of voting allies. Surprisingly, Turkey ranks only 11th in terms of voting allies in semi 1 and is drawn 5 with a very bland and forgettable rock tune, yet Victor Chandler rate it 1-20 to qualify. Azerbaijan will give it 12pts but could Turkey still be a surprise non-qualifier? If you can lay at anything between 1-10 and 1-20 on Betfair it would appear a gamble worth taking given there is very little downside if it does qualify and these odds far from reflect its true qualifying chance.
Serbia ranks 9th in terms of historic voting strength and is drawn 6 with a distinctly average song that sounds like something you might have expected to hear in Eurovision back in the early 80s. It is rated 1-10 with Victor Chandler to qualify which is a long way removed from its true chance of qualifying. We would suggest backing Serbia not to qualify at 2-1 with Skybet.
The other 2 that look most vulnerable are Armenia and Albania, drawn 3 and 4 respectively. But they are rated 3rd and 4th in terms of voting allies in this semi-final so have strong support they can rely on. Of the 2, Armenia is by far the weaker song and is also worth laying to qualify at anything close to 1-2 on Betfair. If it is performed in the right tongue-in-cheek way it will probably do well enough on the televote to compensate for a poor score among juries, but could still be borderline top 10.
We think juries will reward Albania’s stirring ballad handsomely, and enough to see it qualify quite comfortably. Aurela Gace has an excellent voice and the song itself, while probably better if it had remained in Albanian, is decent. So 11-10 Albania to qualify with William Hill seems reasonable value.
We expect Poland to have the sort of impact Iceland had last year, only from the start of the evening rather than the end, and overcome its poor ranking of 15th in terms of voting friends in this semi. And Norway and Finland probably have enough stand-out quality to qualify. There is no value, however, backing any of these 3 to qualify.
Our final recommendation would have been to lay Croatia to qualify if you could lay it on Betfair at its high street price – as short as Evens with Skybet. It is ranked 17th in terms of voting allies, and while a late draw of 13 and being sandwiched between the tedious San Marino and Iceland may boost it, it still has a mountain to climb to get in the top 10. Sadly, other punters appear to agree as 2.96 is lined up requesting to be layed on Betfair as of today, and that is not a value lay in our view.
In conclusion regarding semi-final 1, EntertainmentOdds recommendations are:
Serbia not to qualify 2-1 (Skybet)
Albania to qualify 11-10 (William Hill)
Lay Turkey to qualify on Betfair up to 1.1
Lay Armenia to qualify on Betfair up to 1.55

Rob Furber

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