Go Big Or Go Home

May 18, 2021 by

Go Big Or Go Home

Semi 1 has long felt a tight, trappy affair this year, and while the hope attending rehearsals always is, it will help clarify things, last night’s jury run has made it an even muddier picture.

With its plethora of solo female uptempos, logic dictates a few won’t make the cut tonight, and it’s that stretch in the draw from 9 to 14 where you sense there will be casualties.

Top of the most vulnerable list has to come Azerbaijan. It’s a thoroughly lacklustre affair and staging has done nothing to conceal the weakness of ‘Mata Hari’. Efendi was fine in front of the juries last night but the value here has been on the NQ side, heavily traded in the 1.3s and 1.4s.

Next at risk is Israel. Eden’s well-oiled dance troupe do their best to help elevate but ’Set Me Free’ feels like another paper-thin pop track, and the superfluous dolphin note at song end has the feel of something shoe-horned in in sheer desperation to try and impress jurors.

Romania has received negative reviews from the vast majority of people watching on during rehearsals. It’s a beast of a track for Roxen to get through unscathed live. In its favour, ‘Amnesia’ shows some artistry and a modern pop edge that is lacking in a lot of its semi 1 rivals. Granted a 2nd run through last night due to technical issues, Roxen managed to negotiate it well enough, and that re-run would have potentially acted as a handy boost.

Another borderliner is Croatia’s ’Tick-Tock’. It has never entirely convinced as a stand-out pop song in this semi but Albina brings a certain charm to her performance which is absent among many of her uptempo female foes in this semi-final.

Norway’s Tix looks a more secure Q prospect. He at least has a point of difference as much as his over-the-top styling could prove jury anathema and the televote appeal remains questionable. ‘Fallen Angel’ has a refreshingly discernible melody, he is among the better live vocalists in this 1st semi, and he performed well last night.

The only entries that have the feel of qualifying locks here are Malta, Ukraine, Cyprus and Lithuania. Despite many years of sailing into the grand final, Sweden feels slightly under threat. Tusse performs ‘Voices’ in a somewhat strange and closed manner, with the jerky head and hand movements. It’s also incredibly bland.

Juries will probably give it enough support to see it through but it has been trading too short to Q and layers do have a shot at landing what would be a remarkable knock-out punch in Christer Bjorkman’s last year in charge.

Russia is a visual feast but a song banging on about Russian women might not travel too well. It’s niche and potentially alienating on first listen, and Ukraine firmly trumps it as the quirky, original ethno entry from the east, coming towards the end of the show. Lithuania and Ukraine haven’t been Russia’s strongest allies in recent years either.

Hooverphonic’s ‘The Wrong Place’ comes across as an oasis of quality sandwiched between Croatia and Israel and it has looked a value play to Q at odds against. Juries should be respecting what is a very well staged and performed track which has a classy, lounge bar feel about it in this semi. If it is reaching the upper echelon of top 3 on the jury side it should be sailing through and might be one to consider for a surprise top 3 finish.

Australia remains the greatest enigma of all and could put a cat among the pigeons by qualifying. Being absent is just one part of its potential USP. There is an interview with Montaigne which should offer a small televote boost and Australia does have previous for over-performing with juries.

For all their individual merits, Slovenia, North Macedonia and Ireland are probably not doing enough to Q in this company. Ana for Slovenia wasn’t at her best last night when she probably needed to be.

In terms of the semi win, Ukraine’s chance may be hampered by a jury shortfall but it could really fly with televoters tonight. Malta would have probably topped the jury last night and despite televote success not looking so assured, it should do well enough from the pimp slot to secure the semi win overall.

Ukraine looks a solid top 3 and e/w prospect. The last podium place is possibly between Lithuania and Cyprus though there might be room for a shock.

The 10 qualifiers in order of confidence – Malta, Ukraine, Lithuania, Cyprus, Belgium, Norway, Russia, Sweden, Romania, Australia

It would come as no surprise if Romania or Australia miss out, and Croatia grabs a Q spot. Equally, Azerbaijan and Israel are also in contention. This is a Q list partly given in response to assessing the odds, and going into tonight the value looks on the Q side with Australia, the NQ side with Croatia.

Unless you have the bankroll of Roman Abramovich, backing countries at 1.3 or lower to Q from ESC semi-finals is unappealing, especially in a semi-final as tight and uncertain as this.

Laying at very short odds, seeking an upset, will always remain the trading m.o. here, along with trying to unearth 1 or 2 that offer perceived value at bigger odds to qualify, and represent the e/w and top 3 value.

Best of luck to everyone tonight and please feel free to post semi 1 thoughts and Q lists below.


Matt’s thoughts –

Semi-final 1 hits the screens tonight and the 19, including the three direct-to-Saturday songs, enter into the wider public consciousness. This is when the conjecture stops and other metrics start to dominate the thinking process.
Semi 1 is higher in quality than its Thursday counterpart, but oddly less challenging in terms of predicting its outcome. There are nine which I feel reasonably comfortable about and three where I see very little path to qualification – North Macedonia, Slovenia and Ireland.
This leaves four songs pushing for the last spot. These are Australia, Romania, Azerbaijan and Israel. Romania remains a decent studio package and with the advantage of running twice last night, and delivering an improved performance, Romania is my tenth but most shaky qualifier.
For the record, these are my ten to qualify from semi 1. These are not in positional order: Malta (as winner), Ukraine, Lithuania, Russia, Sweden, Belgium, Norway, Croatia, Cyprus, Romania
Good luck with all your investments.


  1. Tim B

    I am going for Lithuania, Russia, Sweden, Cyprus, Norway, Croatia, Israel, Romania, Ukraine and Malta.

    Good luck everyone!

  2. Guildo Horn Forever

    “Juries will probably give it enough support to see it through but it has been trading too short to Q and layers do have a shot at landing what would be a remarkable knock-out punch in Christer Bjorkman’s last year in charge.”

    That reminds me of that phenomenon that happens in football when a manager makes the mistake of announcing that the current season will be their last in charge. The most famous example of that of course is discussed here:


    “In terms of the semi win, Ukraine’s chance may be hampered by a jury shortfall but it could really fly with televoters tonight. Malta would have probably topped the jury last night and despite televote success not looking so assured, it should do well enough from the pimp slot to secure the semi win overall.”

    As I’ve said previously, the Ukrainian and French numbers were the two I was immediately obsessed with as soon I heard them. I took a long, long look at the 33s that was available for Ukraine to win this Semi, but I’m sad to report that I didn’t do it 🙁
    I think I ended up hopping on board at 10s. Their top price is currently 7s, which feels meagre compensation for having watched that double carpet eventually fly by. Obviously, I’m still rooting for Ukraine to win, and I’m finding hope, or straw-clutching, in wondering if Malta got too big for their disco boots yesterday evening.

    Eurovision betting can be a bit weird in that prior to the televised Semi-finals, I’m trying to figure things out based on leaked scraps of rehearsal footage and the opinions of those with full access!

    I’ll make a hope-filled, bets-already-down-biased guess at a Ukraine win, and a 1-2-3-4 of Ukraine, Lithuania, Malta, and Cyprus. And I’ll have Sweden as a NQ (and which seems to be trading at about 7/2, so that would be a surprise NQ.)

  3. I’ll go with (in order):

    Q: Malta, Ukraine, Cyprus, Russia, Lithuania, Norway, Sweden, Croatia, Belgium, Romania
    NQ: Azerbaijan, Australia, Israel, North Macedonia, Ireland, Slovenia

    Big Ukraine fan here too.

  4. Guildo Horn Forever

    Yeah, let’s hear that Ukraine love! 🙂

    Less of a surprise result than Sweden not going through to the Final, but I’d also tend to have Israel as a NQ, too.

    I mean: a) the song sounds great in snatches but then somewhat disappoints in full, b) lead singer Eden is still going for those aloof looks off, and c) an although Eurovision does mainly live in its own bubble, its own world, it doesn’t happen in an absolute vacuum completely separate from global headlines. At this moment an Israeli called Eden singing Set Me Free could feel like the most surreal of inadvertent, accidental, bad-taste piss takes!

    I think I read somewhere that Eden, after she’d finished her song, thanked the audience in both Hebrew and Arabic – which went down exceptionally well. The timing for her is very unfortunate, she seems a nice kid, she’s just a singer in a singing contest, and not having a look that people would immediately associate with Israel could work to her advantage. I think when viewers switch on to watch Eurovision they’re looking for and finding an entertaining escape, and primarily punishing a young female singer for a geo-political conflict is irrational, but I can only see the Israel-Palestine situation as a potential slight negative for Israel’s chances.

    As a special bet / request a bet, I wonder what odds for an Israel-NQ & UK-last double?!

    N.B. If anyone thinks they’ve spotted my political opinions in anything above – you haven’t. I’m a superficial person just looking at things with my betting head on. I’m only making observations out loud that most people will be thinking about though not saying.

  5. Rob

    in no particular order:

    Sweden looks at its most vulnerable for many years so worth a speculative lay.

    Belgium looks like the obvious jury magnet and worth a speculative Top 3

    Romania is my favourite so that’s it’s qualifying chances killed off haha

  6. Montell

    My 10 qualifiers are Malta, Cyprus, Lithuania, Ukraine, Russia, Sweden, Norway, Croatia, Belgium, Israel.

    Common sense says this should win semi final easily. Malta should be 1st place with juries and the pimp slot should guarantee at least 3rd place with televoters.

    I didn’t like the song when I first heard it, but the Cyprus team did everything perfectly. It’s staged very nicely and the song itself is quite catchy. But I still cannot get over the fact that it’s a cheaper version of Bad Romance by Lady Gaga.

    I wasn’t a fan of this song either, but most of the time songs that I don’t like do really good. The song is catchy and performance is very slick and The Roop is the only boy band in this semi. I see this finishing 2nd-4th.

    I like this. It reminds me of Bulgaria 2006 which I simply adored. This is very close to it. Should finish 2nd-4th.

    Manizha is a very convincing performer. It doesn’t matter what she sings. I think this is enough for Russia to do good in this semi. The song is not for juries, but it’s fine. At least this is not another outdated Kirkorov song that Russia was sending in previous years.

    Personally, I rate this song very low. I have no idea why Sweden didn’t choose Eric Saade. Today they would have been among top 5 favorites to win Eurovision. “Voices” are very cliche and outdated song. But then again, it’s not bad enough not to qualify.

    I hoped TIX would change the staging, but it remained the same as in MGP. There’s nothing really special about this song, but it has a nice melody and is somewhat emotional. I think people will vote for this (juries, not so much).

    Very catchy chorus and good voice, but the song are just a little too repetitive. Still, I see this in the final.

    This is something different from the rest and performed very well. Juries should love this. Among all those uptempo number this is something very fresh. I even see this in televoters top 10.

    I like the song in studio version. I don’t know about LIVE version but I heard it sounded flat in the jury rehearsal. Also, this song may be a little too junior Eurovision for everyone else. I’m not a fan of the whistle note, by the way. This is a very borderline qualifier for me.


    Personally, I like it, but juries should rate this low. The song is annoyingly catchy, but too repetitive. Among other female uptempo numbers Azerbaijan is probably the weakest. I like the song because it’s something Turkey would send and I miss Turkish music so much. This could be qualifying instead of Israel very easy.

    This is actually a really good song, but only in studio version. Unfortunately Roxen fails to perform it well enough. It’s somewhat forgivable to sing an uptempo song badly, but a song like Amnesia needs to be performed much better. I think people will not connect with this song. Roxen should have ditched the whole dance choreography because it harms her singing and distract from the song. I see low televote score for. Only juries can save Romania but I don’t think they will.

    I think this is the first hyperpop song in Eurovision. The song incohesive and where’s the melody? The fact that it’s not performed in Ahoy doesn’t really help. I think it will look out of place.

    Uplifting song but performed badly and the staging is distracting.

    I liked this on the first listen and I still do. This could be a surprise qualifier. Anyway, competition is very strong and it seems unlikely Slovenia will qualify.

    North Macedonia
    Good voice, but a no song. Macedonia should be proud no to finish last in this semi.

    • Montell

      * I compare Ukraine to Bulgaria 2007 (Water). Not 2006. My mistake.

  7. Montell

    William Hill
    Belgium, Greece, Norway, Portugal, Russia & San Marino All To Qualify For The Final

    I would bet on this if they didn’t limit my account.

    • Rob

      Good shout that Montell. Flo Rida confirmed now for SM. That could be the most vulnerable of the 6.

      • Montell

        Hi Rob. Do you see Flo Rida as a good or a bad thing for San Marino qualification chances?

        • Rob

          I think it has the same chance as without him, Montell. Can’t imagine Flo Rida fans are going to suddenly be voting for SM. FR has not had a hit record in over a decade.

          • neomichael

            That’s indeed an interesting fact

  8. Guildo Horn Forever

    Halfway thoughts:

    Am probably a bit overfamiliar with The Roop and slightly preferred the Russian performance. She’s ace. Thought neither song fantastic.
    Slovenia woeful.
    Swedish singer was doing ok but halfway through suddenly started to sound increasingly hoarse.
    Australia was more art project than song.
    Can Lesley Roy actually sing at all? She looked embarrassed. Maybe flashes of anger at the assault course designer, too.
    Elena’s lower register is very weak and very shaky. But she belts while dancing really well. Proper banger but didn’t completely grab me.

  9. Guildo Horn Forever

    Seacon half thoughts:

    I preferred Croatia’s Albina to Cyprus’s Elena. She’s relatable and has a twinkle about her. But Cyprus has the superior package.
    Norway was fine but seemed to go by in a flash.
    Enjoyed Hooverphonic’s song, nice melody. Felt like a proper song? Lead singer has a bitter divorcee vibe.
    Despite female upbeat dance song fatigue, I quite enjoyed Israel.
    Romania very pitchy and rushed. Lesley Roy Mark II. Unrecognisable from the Rhianna vibes of the studio version. Choreography was awkward, too. Felt sorry for her.
    Female upbeat dance song fatigue really kicking in now. I groaned when I saw there was 3 minutes of Mata Hari coming. Enjoyed the finale crescendo of staccato pyro.
    Staging, split screen, choreography, lighting – I’m biased but I loved Ukraine. Stunning.
    Malta was better than I expected, seeing the entire performance. Destiny is great fun, has great facial expressions and knows how to work the camera. Overall, the song does lack something. Like many tonight she was vocally shaky at the song outset, and I did notice her voice cracked on the centrepiece big note.

    That felt like a 1-2 of Malta followed by Ukraine.

  10. Mark Dowd

    I am simply astonished that anyone hearing Romania’s vocals at both jury and tonite, could have them going through. Worse than Serhat. Juries HATE this kind of ragged delivery. This was very easy pickings in the NQ market.

    • Rob

      I’ve sat through many off-key jury performances over the last decade & seen said entries qualify. She was much better on the 2nd jury run. It’s also only part of the equation. Israel and Azerbaijan were both weak songs, and Eden’s live vocal was also iffy in places. They have likely gone through courtesy of a robust fan vote.
      Price is everything. Laying Israel at 1.6 and Azerbaijan 1.3 were the correct plays as was backing Romania when it drifted to 2.5+. Israel must have hit 2.5+ post jury run; Azer drifted to 1.9+. This was a tight sf which demanded a trading approach.

  11. Rob

    The Swedish entry was just… awful! The guy is an ok singer but the song is so old fashioned. And the presentation! Thought the guy had been glued to the stage with blandest of bland backdrops. The UK would be crucified if they’d delivered something that was so pants.

  12. Guildo Horn Forever

    I feel like I’m going to come out of this ESC with a bunch of regrets, mainly centred on Ukraine. When I first watched the Ukraine music video, they were about 66/1 to 70/1 on the sportsbooks (and obviously would have been higher on the exchanges.) For some inexplicable reason, I decided that those odds weren’t big enough (!) and piddled about on over-trying to find outsiders for the Top 10 market. If it didn’t win its Semi yesterday (which it actually may have done), then I’ll get nothing from it.


    I think I was right in judging my other obsession, the French song, to be at odds I didn’t want to get involved in (at about 4/1, I think), but when is a 70/1 shot too short a price! Haha!

    People may not believe me here, but I’m also thinking back to the 2019 Eurovision. I didn’t have a bet on the contest and didn’t even watch it (I only watched the incredible KEINO Grand Final performance yesterday). But I had, prior, watched a song recap and the one that jumped out at me was Australia. I was intent on backing it on the exchange, but first read a couple of reviews of it, all negative and let myself be put off. I was shocked the other day to read that it won its Semi (despite finishing 9th in the Grand Final). As best as I recall it was about 100/1 for the outright on the exchange, so it’s odds for the Semi would have been handsome.

    You’re not supposed to back to your own personal taste, or your own likes, on Eurovision, but I’m not so sure.

  13. Guildo Horn Forever

    Musings about tomorrow’s Semi.

    I’ve been looking at the top 8 in the betting for tomorrow’s Semi on Oddschecker, trying to figure if any jump out as the likely winner. I’m finding it confusing…

    Switzerland – is 2/1-ish really a good price for an entry with a performer who, by most / all accounts, appears to look uncomfortable with the choreography he’s been given? Epically beautiful, soaring voice, though, and I do really enjoy the song.

    Bulgaria – Sprinkles of stardust about the performer, gorgeously intimate voice, and the staging appears stunningly beautiful, fitting, and appears to truly embody the song and is integral to its storytelling – by all accounts! But I still find the song a bit forgettable. Will it come across as sad, or sentimentally uplifting?

    Iceland – Having to rely on rehearsal video footage has to hurt them, though they may garner the sympathy vote for the positive test that’s put them out from performing in the live shows? Daði Freyr is apparently a bit of a star on Tik Tok from last year when Think About Things enjoyed a life outside the Eurovision bubble. I feel they have a large fan base. I love his personality and performance style. I prefer Iceland’s package to that of Lithuania’s. Iceland rounds out the clear front three in the betting.

    Finland – Feels second-fiddle to the Italian entry (not that all of the voting viewership will be aware of the Italian song). Enjoyable enough, with a catchy-enough chorus. A bit retro emo rock, with performers who seem to be trying far too hard to be American. Inauthentic? I prefer it in snatches to listening to the whole thing.

    Greece – Performer, her styling and her voice all seem fantastic. Like Finland’s song it seems to be inspired by another era in music. Much better song than Finland’s, I think, though I’m not absolutely mad about it. Have concerns about the staging being too green-screen dependent but I’ve only seen snatches, so it’s difficult to tell.

    San Marino – Who knows? Flo Rida has 4.9 million Twitter followers and 820k Instagram followers. What does that mean and what could that translate into? How any of those will be in voting viewerships? At least, Flo Rida’s appearance will serve to distract from what a Fuego rip-off the song is! Flo Rida’s appearance will maybe create a cross-over curiosity, must-see, TV tune-in moment? Confusing.

    Portugal – Can’t bear the Portuguese entry.

    Serbia – If the performers for this are as sensational as what reports indicate, then why is this about 50/1 on the exchange? Confusing. Can never remember much anything about the song, but I can imagine these performers will really get the crowd going, especially following on from the video footage of Iceland’s rehearsal and immediately before the slow plod of Georgia.

    I look forward to reading Rob’s guidance on this tomorrow.

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