Iceland To Be Frozen Out?

Apr 17, 2013 by

Iceland To Be Frozen Out?

Time to run the rule over the semi-final 2 qualification picture. This semi looks stronger than semi 1 this year, and the 10 qualifying spots are going to be fiercely-contested.

If pushed to give a list of likely qualifiers as of today, it would be Georgia, Norway, Greece, Azerbaijan, Israel, Malta, Bulgaria. After that it gets very tricky indeed.

We initially had some worries about Farid’s live vocal abilities but YouTube footage to come to light since suggests he can cope with the demands of ‘Hold Me’. Malta and Israel fall into a similar category in the sense Gianluca and Moran Mazor look to be competent performers – certainly based on their efforts in Amsterdam last weekend – and are singing songs of, in theory, requisite quality to get through.

Bulgaria is a bit of a strange one for Western ears, ‘Samo Shampioni’ being a rather odd concoction of ethno sounds. But of course, this is a big part of its USP, and Elitsa and Stoyan’s instrument playing and sheer joy performing this song will likely bring it to life on stage and be appreciated by juries.

Albania has USP as this semi’s only authentic rock tune and ‘Identitet’ is a stronger song, in our view, compared to Armenia’s ‘Lonely Planet’. It also has a later running order position in 14. The main worry here is the telegenic appeal of Adrian and Bledar.

Armenia is its big rival in the rock stakes, and though Albania just edges it on a strict interpretation of historical voting data, Armenia has a more solid-looking base of voting friends in Georgia, France, Israel and Greece. But, but, but… Dorians also struggle on the telegenic front.

The fact Armenia was absent from the contest in 2012 could give more incentive to its diaspora to get voting. The early value to qualify was certainly Albania but the prices look about right now, and these 2 nations both have a fairly strong qualifying case.

If they both get through, and we have those 7 ‘likely qualifiers’ right, that would potentially only leave one more qualifying place up for grabs. This highlights how competitive this semi is. So who else is in the shake up? While Latvia and Macedonia look to face an uphill battle, San Marino, Finland, Iceland, Hungary, Switzerland and Romania all have legitimate claims.

Having previously made a case for Switzerland, the staging was a little bit disappointing in Amsterdam. It has a good draw, the song has a nice sing-a-long quality but it would be good to see them involve 95-year-old Emil, on double bass, more. My idea: illuminating him and his double bass in neon lights and giving him a dramatic solo acted out by Emil with rock star élan, possibly involving riding his instrument vertically across the stage like Marty McFly in Back To The Future. Come on Swiss delegation – it would be televoting gold!

San Marino will surely rank highly on the jury side of things in this semi – we would expect it to be vying for top 4. And if avid ESC fans have more sway in semi voting, then Valentina is in good shape as judging by assorted fan polls, many are rooting for plucky ESC underdog San Marino this year. The early draw is not ideal and we do not have robust figures regarding San Marino’s voting strength given it has only competed in the Contest three times before, but overall it does look to have fairly strong qualifying credentials.

Given the strongish cases, as outlined, for Armenia, Albania, Switzerland and San Marino, that’s already 11 nations vying for 10 spots. Which is one of the reasons why, in this semi-final, the early value definitely resided on the ‘not to qualify’ side with Finland, flagged up here a few weeks ago at 2.95 not to qualify.

Outside of Iceland and Norway, where is its support coming from? Having seen this performed in Amsterdam there are still major doubts as to its mainstream appeal, and we are not certain juries will be impressed, unless semi 2 juries are skewed this year towards teenage girls.

Regardless of Cezar’s pimp slot, we would still have ‘It’s My Life’ just falling on the ‘not to qualify’ side at the moment. And the trouble for both Iceland and Hungary is that they are rather wishy-washy songs in the context of this semi and could easily become wallpaper.

Where does this all leave us regarding qualifying value in this semi? The early value on Bulgaria at odds against has since dried up. If we could double Israel and Malta to qualify, at combined odds of around 11-8 with bwin, we would but sadly we cannot because this is a ‘related contingency’.

So we are left to advise Iceland at Evens not to qualify with bet365. ‘Eg A Lif’ is a pleasant enough ditty while also being the most vanilla of ballads, and drawn between Bulgaria’s ethno shtick and Greece’s entertaining ‘Alcohol is Free’ Justin Lee Collins lookalike Eythor Ingi could struggle to grab the hearts and minds of jurors and televoters alike. It can probably rely on points from Norway, Hungary and Finland, possibly Malta too, but overall it looks like coming up short given the strength of the opposition in this semi.

It should also be noted that, having witnessed the sheer entertainment value of ‘Alcohol Is Free’ performed live on stage in Amsterdam, Greece now looks a solid e/w bet at 10-1 with Boylesports in semi-final 2.

A special thanks to the guys at for inviting me to take part in their second ESC 2013 podcast, putting the songs in the 2nd half of the first semi-final under the microscope, which can be heard here.

The next EntertainmentOdds article will offer a review of this Sunday’s London Eurovision Party 2013, and try and unearth some more value as a broader range of ESC markets are now being released by the high street bookmakers.

Where do you see the semi 2 bankers? Is there any qualifying/non-qualifying value you have spotted better than Evens? Do drop us a line and tap out your thoughts below.


  1. Boki

    I agree mostly with the podcast and the article, also have Iceland as NQ, still have some doubts about Finland – she came across too offensive in Ams, still waiting to see the rehearsal. My only disagreement would be Moldova – think the song deserves more credit than it gets (but it also seems I’m in the minority).

  2. Rob

    Hi Boki. I think we are often dealing with bordeline qualifiers in the semis this year. Assessment of variables such as song quality (and thus how we expect the juries to react) remains subjective but, ultimately, it has to come down to an exercise in value at the available odds.

    Finland and Moldova may well both get through but at the odds the value up to now has looked to be on the ‘not to qualify’ side.

  3. Rob

    Ukraine update:

    The stage story will feature a giant man who brings the singer to a “magic circle”. When she finds herself in a fairy forest, she suddenly gains a supernatural power.” Zlata explains that a giant is a metaphor character meaning her inner strength which helps to achieve her dream despite the dense forests and tricky mountain trails on her way.

    Zlata Ognevich said the giant is a real person invited to take part in the show. His name is yet unrevealed though. He is the sixth artist on stage.

  4. Boki

    It seems they will again succeed in covering a weak song with original staging. Yesterday I felt I need it to be green in my OR book, despite what I think of it. If anyone else feels the same, it’s still 13/1 @Betsson.

  5. Rob

    It potentially aids it with regard to the televote – as we saw televoters enjoy the sand artist. But I’m not sure a giant on stage helping Zlata find her potential is going to be quite so vote-grabbing. Only Malmo will tell us if it’s a hit or a miss, but seeing Zlata ascend magically could make the song come across as even more saccharine. It shouldn’t (in theory) help it one iota in terms of its jury score.

  6. Rob

    You mention Bettson, Boki. Did you point out in an earlier post that this has an association with NordicBet?

    Would be interested to hear readers’ experiences with NordicBet as I get the impression they are not to be trusted, which is a shame as they are one of few firms to issue semi quali/non-quali prices.

    • Boki

      Hi Rob, Betsson bought 2 competitors in 2011 and 2012 – Betsafe and Nordicbet. I have unplayable limits with all of them but 4-5 years back I had no problems, they paid out after verification just like any other bookie. Heard from someone they are now harsh against customers outside Nordic region but some people @escbet claimed they have no problems.

  7. Rob

    Thanks Boki. Yes, I have heard some bad stories about NB. Maybe it’s simply a case they will not lay a decent-sized bet on ESC markets.

  8. eurovicious

    “When she finds herself in a fairy forest, she suddenly gains a supernatural power” – that sounds like me in the Euroclub in 2011.

    Do you really think San Marino will be that high in the jury? I don’t. Its televote will not be significant either. The fanboy viewership is a drop in the ocean and limited to certain countries. Having watched the EIC vid, I don’t think Monetta has the skills to give the song the necessary gravitas – it’s completely outclassed by the few other ballads in SF2. I also think Switzerland is completely doomed. I’m assuming Albania and Armenia as qualifiers and I at present think the “10th” one will be Romania or Iceland (the latter of which has low voting power but is both televoter- and jury-friendly, and musically simple enough to have broad appeal), with an outside chance of Finland (I’m with you on Finland NQ).

  9. Rob

    Hi ev. Yes, I see no reason why SM can’t comfortably land in the jury top 4 in this semi. I think it’s a song of real quality that juries will acknowledge as such. What is finishing higher than SM on the jury side of things – Norway, Georgia & Israel would be the other 3 I’d have up there. Iceland & Azerbaijan do not impress me maybe as much as they do you. Malta might possibly get among the top 5. Switzerland certainly need to improve the staging of the song to get in contention.

  10. Tim B

    Definitely agree with those 7 qualifiers. I would add Albania and Armenia, so that’s 9. I agree with eurovicious that San Marino may struggle with the juries. Norway, Israel and Georgia should indeed be higher but as a juror, I would be ranking Bulgaria, Malta and perhaps even Greece (voting power bias and regional bias should come into play with the juries here), Azerbaijan Iceland and Albania higher than San Marino. A decent jury score for San Marino is far from guaranteed. At 1.41 to qualify on Betfair, San Marino is an incredible lay at the moment.

    I’m going to side with the statistics, for now, regarding Romania. If 7/10 acts from the pimp slot make the top 3 in a semi, it’s hard to imagine ROMANIA not even qualifying from this position. Cezar needs to sort out his facial expressions but he can really sing. The song is a bit dodgy but it sounds like there’s going to be some excellent staging, with Cezar being elevated above the stage at some point.

    Agree that Iceland at evens may have been a of value not to qualify. I agree with all that eurovicious said in that it shouldn’t be ruled out. As I said on the ESCBet/Tips podcast (coming soon), I think Iceland will do better than Finland and San Marino and will be an extremely borderline case. Its biggest problem is perhaps that it is followed by Greece.

  11. Rob

    Hi Tim. You make a strong case as to why SM may not qualify & why Romania possibly will.

    I will add a further compelling stat – 18 out of 20 songs to perform in the 2nd last slot or the last slot since the 2 semi format came in in 2008 have ALL qualified. And only 1 pimp slot song has failed to qualify – Netherlands 2009, The Toppers ‘Shine’.

    Semi 2 is shaping up to be a bloodbath & there is great value around if you can spot the casualties. Hard to imagine Cesar being worse than this 🙂


  12. Tim B

    Haha, yes I’m always listening to the ESC albums on my phone and ‘Shine’ is the song that the skip button was invented for.

    ISRAEL vs San Marino 2.10 is a decent prospect with bwin.

  13. geoff,aka pimp

    Hi rob which performance from farid convinced you that his vocals were better then we first thought?
    Just interested because ive always rated the song but not the singer ?

  14. geoff,aka pimp

    Cheers Rob.
    He still has a fair bit of that nasal tone going on but apart from that its not too bad.
    He could be one of the most interesting ones for rehearsals if azer can work there magic with him
    Its one of the more instant ballads in my view, but jury worries have put me off taking him too seriously

  15. Tim B

    Rob, do you think there might be any problems with Moran Mazor’s visual appeal for Israel? The glasses are fine but she is more than a bit overweight. In a semi which is in theory so tight between the borderline entries, do you think this could make a difference? Israel’s televote is never particularly strong, but they do have some friends to rely on here,

    • Rob

      I guess it is a slight concern, Tim. The main thing is, they get it right with her dress and style her appropriately, ie, more conservatively than the Israel final. The set of her song, and the song itself, are classy so her gown needs to be too.

      In her favour is the fact she is the only solo female in the 2nd half of semi 2. Only SM provide competition in the solo female ballad stakes in this semi, & we know historically juries appreciate well-sung, quality solo ballads.

  16. Tim B

    Here is the 3rd ESCbet/Tips podcast, for those who are interested.

    • Rob

      Nice work, Tim – especially enjoyed your NQ take on both San Marino & Finland. It certainly is a fiendishly tough semi. And the wise approach has to be a value one at the odds with the borderliners.

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