Hail Salvador

May 13, 2017 by

Hail Salvador

‘And now, the end is near…’ We’ve reached the day of the ESC 2017 grand final which – despite battling fatigue after an exhausting 14 days in Kiev – is always tinged with sadness as after tonight the Eurovision circus must leave town.

Many were already declaring Italy the winner before we arrived here. But in the last 2 weeks it feels like something might have changed and there is a sense Italy is vulnerable.

Francesco delivered the song with his trademark charisma last night and while viewers will enjoy it tonight, it might not quite be the televote procession for Italy initially anticipated.

The ‘fun’ songs this year possibly have their own unique audiences but it does feel like Italy is compromised by its draw in 9, also because Portugal’s Salvador performs 2 songs later and creates a sublime 3 minutes of music that eclipses Italy.

The under-stated nature of the Portuguese song feels like its greatest strength in this year’s field. Intimately staged, Salvador produced his best last night in front of the jurors. His performance is so nuanced, you feel like you are watching music artistry in its purest form, and the overall impression last night was truly awe-inspiring. If this hasn’t topped the jury vote there is something rotten in the state of Eurovision.

Despite being sung in Portuguese, this has to resonate powerfully with televoters. It is a performance that draws you in and Salvador himself is so easy to warm to, you end up rooting for him.

It is not until towards the end of the show that Salvador’s potential main competition turn up. Blanche for Belgium has improved enormously over the 2 weeks and her song comes across as the strongest modern pop track in the competition. With her unique vocal and almost plaintive delivery, this is connecting much better now and has the potential to even go top 3 tonight IF Italy under-performs.

But Salvador’s main rival this year could turn out to be Bulgarian’s Kristian who is the penultimate to perform on the night. ‘Beautiful Mess’ is this year’s factory-made, built to win Eurovision song.

It isn’t the best song of the year, but the Bulgarian delegation have done everything in their power to make it look and sound like winning material. Everything about it is synthetic, from Kristian’s emoting to all the staging gimmicks they have added to try and elevate it. Being here you can see the artifice, but the likelihood is both jurors and televoters will be duped.

What is more concerning for the Contest is the lengths Bulgaria might be going to to win this year, and this is part of the unknown in assessing its chance vs Portugal which will be playing fair.

For whatever reason, it looked transparent on Thursday night the draw was fixed to ensure Kristian got a 2nd half draw. Was this an EBU decision made out of necessity for a better tv show and not having all 3 favourites shoe-horned into the first half, or are more sinister motives at play?

The battle lines are drawn and it is hard to remain objective this year because of everything that feels at stake. In the battle between Portugal and Bulgaria, it’s authenticity vs confection; organic vs hidden, potentially harmful ingredients; innocent underdog vs dark forces at play.

In the belief viewers across Europe are going to be charmed by Salvador, my call is Portugal winning from Bulgaria with Belgium 3rd and, somewhat amazingly, Italy consigned to 4th.

My 5th placer is Armenia. A former Soviet-bloc (or Russian) entry usually lands in the top 5 virtually by default and despite the early draw of 5, Artsvik should be able to rely on enough diaspora and jury love for her well-presented avant-garde song to go Top 5 especially in a year in which it feels there are 5 songs comfortably superior to the rest.

Some will insist Sweden is a Top 5 song this year but not me and it could be one to consider laying in Top 4/5 markets. It could easily fall down the rankings by coming across as a very plastic, soulless package, more so being sandwiched between Belgium and Bulgaria. My feeling is, it was not Top 3 in semi-final 1 and it could even be at risk of missing out on a Top 10 placing tonight. It’s only salvation is the paucity of competition fighting for those spots between 6th and 10th.

Predicting the remaining Top 10 finishers feels more random than usual this year. On the basis it looks sure to be a big televote hit and they got through last night’s jury rehearsal relatively unscathed, Romania makes the Top 10. We could see it do something of a Poland 2016 – trailing well behind after the jury pts reveal before making a big leap up after the televote pts are added. Such a scenario could lead to a drift in Romania’s Top 10 price in-running, or the market might be too savvy.

Another to make the Top 10 but with a degree of trepidation is the UK. Lucie has a great r.o. position in 18 and jurors should have given her solid points for vocal performance. The niggling concern is her West End delivery and possibly not connecting with televoters as well as hoped this evening despite the excellent staging effects. As a patriotic Brit the hope is Lucie can achieve a higher finish than Australia’s Isaiah, but that could go down to the wire.

The one I feel represents best value for Top 10 is Israel. Belgium made the top 10 last year after opening the show, and it could well be Imri, like Belgium’s Laura last year, managed a podium finish in his semi-final from the pimp slot.

It has come together really well and is an excellent and memorable show opener. While there is strength at the end of the show and always a risk of viewer fatigue, my other pick for Top 10 is France.

Alma, much like Belgium’s Blanche, has improved enormously throughout the process and the song itself is modern and has a clear USP, working the French angle very well. Alma has a cute, girl next door appeal and there is room for France to surprise this year.

It could be a year when sheer strength of voting power will see Greece and/or Azerbaijan make the Top 10, while the fun/novelty of Moldova and Croatia gives them a shot based on a strong televote. Hungary will likely be in the mix for Top 10 tonight as well in a year when maybe entries with a strong national identity are going to do best.

While Cyprus would be more deserving, my 10th placer will be Greece on the assumption Demy’s popularity in the Balkans helps to jettison her up the leaderboard when televote totals are added on. Given its voting strength, Greece’s Top 10 price has certainly drifted to an attractive price.

In the battle for last place, Spain does look a worthy fav. It comes across as total wallpaper squeezed between Greece and Norway. One to consider at a price e/w might be Austria which suffers early on, somewhat memory-holed by Armenia.

Winner – Portugal
2nd – Bulgaria
3rd – Belgium
4th – Italy
5th – Armenia
6th – Romania
7th – Israel
8th – France
9th – Greece
10th – UK

Tim’s verdict:

Winner – Bulgaria
2nd – Portugal
3rd – Belgium
4th – Italy
5th – Armenia
6th – Sweden
7th – The Netherlands
8th – Moldova
9th – Croatia
10th – Australia

I think some of the best value is to bet on the UK not doing so well. While Lucie is a good singer and the staging is nice, the song is not so great and it’s surrounded by contemporary and more memorable numbers in Norway, Cyprus and Romania. A lay for Top 10 should be safe, and maybe even Top 15. However, one might want to wait until in-play in case Graham Norton really hypes her up in his commentary, and patriotic punters get on board.

I also like the look of the Australia vs United Kingdom head-to-head. This is because ‘Don’t Come Easy’ should be solid jury bait, more so than Lucie’s West End delivery of an average-poor quality song and I would always expect the Aussies to pull in a stronger televote.

Thanks to Rob once again for giving me the chance to contribute to the rehearsal analysis in Kiev, and thanks to everyone who has read our coverage over the past few weeks and months.

The best of luck with your investments this evening, and please do feel free to add your predictions and idea of the best value bets across the plethora of ESC 2017 markets in the Comments section below.


  1. Montell

    My top 10 of the grand final:

    1. Portugal
    2. Bulgaria
    3. Belgium
    4. Italy
    5. Armenia
    6. Sweden
    7. Moldova
    8. Romania
    9. Croatia
    10. Norway

    Portugal. I think it will be both jury and televote winner. Someone in the comments described Salvador as “singing Jesus”.
    Bulgaria. Big support from Balkan countries. Could win if they bribed the juries. I hope that is not the case.
    Belgium. This is the dark horse of this year. Very popular on iTunes and Spotify.
    Italy. To me it was always overrated and I think juries will find it too amateurish.
    Armenia. Huge diaspora. When Armenia sends a good song they always finish in the top 10.
    Sweden. One of the Nordic countries always ends in the top 10. Very radio-friendly song. Slick performance. Sexy male singer.
    Moldova. It was my favorite song from the very begining. There’s always a place for a fun song in the top 10.
    Romania. Low jury score but huge televote should be enough for top 10.
    Croatia. 13th position must mean it did very well in the semi. Reminds me of Serbia 2015 which also finished in the top 10.
    Norway. Very radio-friendly and good-feel song.

  2. Matt

    Wonderful season Rob (and Tim). Appreciate all your hard work and great insight. There are seven that seem good bets for top 10. In order, these are:

    1st Portugal
    2nd Italy
    3rd Bulgaria
    4th Belgium
    5th Armenia
    6th Romania
    7th Sweden.

    Then it gets harder to predict but my top ten is made up by:

    8th UK
    9th Croatia
    10th Greece

    That leaves me with these just missing out and taking the middle order.

    11th Israel
    12th Azerbaijan
    13th Moldova
    14th Hungary
    15th France
    16th Ukraine
    17th Australia
    18th Netherlands
    19th Cyprus
    20th Poland.

    After that, we are left with the also runs.

    21 Norway
    22 Denmark
    23 Belarus
    24 Spain
    25 Germany
    26 Austria

    Good luck everyone with their bets. And see you for Strictly!

  3. 1 Portugal
    2 Italy
    3 Bulgaria
    4 Belgium

    5 Armenia
    6 Sweden
    7 Romania
    8 UK
    9 Israel
    10 Hungary
    11 Netherlands
    12 Moldova
    13 Croatia
    14 Cyprus
    15 France
    16 Azerbaijan
    17 Ukraine
    18 Norway
    19 Greece
    20 Denmark
    21 Australia
    22 Austria
    23 Belarus
    24 Poland
    25 Germany
    26 Spain

    Wonderful work all season Rob and Tim.

    Enjoy the show everyone.

  4. Geoff

    1 Bulgaria
    2 Portugal
    3 Italy
    4 Sweden
    5 Belgium

    Thanks for the coverage Rob and good luck tonight

  5. Montell

    Good bets for tonight in my opinion:

    Greece vs Cyprus.
    Cyprus @3.25, William Hill

    Worst finishing position in the final – Nordic countries.
    Denmark @3.00, Unibet, 32Red, 888Sport

    Position in Final Clasification
    Sweden 5-10 @2.25, Unibet, 32Red, 888Sport

    Top 10 Finish in Final
    Azerbaijan – No @1.72, Unibet, 32Red, 888Sport

    • I like the look of these Montell

    • Matt

      The Denmark one is clear value. Cheers

    • Montell

      3 out of 4 bets landed! Also predicted 8 out 10 in the top 10 and of course the winner Portugal. It was one of the best Eurovisions in my life. Already looking forward to next year.

      • Most enjoyable. A profitable year and a very worthy winner. Pleased Hungary got involved. And delighted for Blanche – was a genuine pleasure seeing her triumph.

        For some reason the impact of Italy got lost on the Ukraine stage. It was very messy and the sound (on many songs actually) seemed not as rich compared to the NF.

  6. Thanks Rob and Tim for all the insightful articles. I look forward to checking back here for Lisbon 2018.

  7. Matt

    An incredible night. Super profitable. Brilliantly navigated by the twin entertainment betting gods – Rob and Tim. What with Daniel, Gav and a few of the switched-on regular contributors, I am closer than ever to giving up the day job to do this malarkey full time.

    Massive thanks to everyone who made this season the best one yet. By the way, if you lurk and don’t subscribe to the paid service, you really are missing out. I can’t recommend it enough. Cheers Rob

  8. James

    I would also like to thank Rob & Tim for providing us with knowledgeable and entertaining Eurovision coverage over the past two weeks.

    I agree with Matt’s sentiments regarding the subscription service. I have made very healthy Eurovision profits in each of the last two years, thanks to following Rob’s recommendations.

    The detailed voting information has been released and I remain disappointed that jury members in certain countries are not appearing to rank songs objectively.


    Are we meant to believe it is a coincidence that all five members of the Azerbaijan jury ranked Armenia in last place, and all five members of the Armenian jury ranked Azerbaijan in last place?

    One member of the Ukrainian jury ranked ‘Beautiful Mess’ in 2nd place in the semi-final, and then (after it was reported that Kristian had visited Crimea) ranked it in last place in the final.

    These 210 individuals account for 50% of the overall Eurovision vote, and the EBU need to hold them to account.

    • Matt

      Couldn’t agree more James. Going deeper into the juries is a rabbit hole of corruption and ineptitude. A singing professor on the UK panel had Salvador 15th in the semi before miraculously placing him top 5 days later. But seeing as this is a professional who thinks Spain and Moldova should be top 5, i would be reluctant to take any of her opinions on music with much credence.

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