Vive La France

May 22, 2021 by

Vive La France

And so it comes to this: a timeless French chanson vs an Italian-language rock song with echoes of The White Stripes.

In many ways, it’s a Eurovision for the ages. Two of the Big 5 likely to be slugging it out for the win, and what you want to see at ESC in terms of the cultural diversity of the competition: two native language entries that remain true to their country’s musical identity.

Watching last night’s jury rehearsal, Barbara Pravi appeared to raise her game even more in delivering ‘Voila’ with a certain, extra je ne sais quoi. Maneskin also produced a top notch performance and this is probably the most sophisticated rock entry ever seen in the competition.

Also muscling into contention at the top of the jury vote are likely to be Malta’s Destiny and Gjon’s Tears for Switzerland. ‘Je Me Casse’ is the strongest of the female uptempos this year, offering the window for Destiny’s big voice to shine, while the arty presentation of Tout l’Univers, along with Gjon’s falsetto, would have impressed a good few jurors despite the latter not having his best night vocally, coupled with his gawky, awkward stage persona.

Bulgaria should also be lurking towards the top of the jury rankings. Victoria bounced back from an under-par performance in semi-final 2 and it is beneficial for ‘GUIGO’ to have flipped r.o. positions with Finland’s Blind Channel, also coming after an ad break this evening. Keep an eye out for one or two surprise jury interlopers: possibly Portugal, possibly Belgium.

A timeless French chanson vs an Italian-language rock song… This is a Eurovision for the ages… what you want to see at ESC in terms of the cultural diversity of the competition

We need to remember we see the jury points reveal first this evening; then the televote point totals are given out from the country in last place following the jury scoring, to the country in first. Calculators at the ready in trying to figure out how many points remain at the business end and who is most likely to be in possession of an overall winning points tally.

It’s a night for cool heads in what is likely to be a volatile evening trading Betfair’s in-running markets. In truth, you could do with a small team of traders working on your behalf, and bosses with megaphones on the exchange floor shouting out instructions in the heat of battle to make the most of the in-play price movements.

Thinking about the televote, there is always room for one or two surprises but gun to head the most likely top 3 would appear to be Ukraine, Italy and France. Ukraine is one which looks like trailing after the jury reveal and despite its leftfield genre of turbo folk, ‘Shum’ is such an impactful audio-visual experience it really should fly with tv viewers.

France then arrives as the starkest of contrasts. The artistry of Barbara Pravi’s performance is striking and it’s a visceral 3 minutes for her as much as the tv viewer. Pravi is almost like an underdog, alone on the stage, and the brilliant close-up camera work and lighting helps ‘Voila’ to resonate.

From ‘Ecoutez moi’ onwards, Pravi enthrals and connects like no other entry this year. It feels like an iconic Eurovision moment and it’s the emotional pull of ‘Voila’ which could prove the key differentiator.

Despite its leftfield genre of turbo folk, ‘Shum’ is such an impactful audio-visual experience it really should fly with tv viewers

Italy has the later running order slot, potentially providing a handy televote boost, and arrives as the big final blast of impactful energy on the stage. ‘Zitti E Buoni’ is a grower but for the first time viewer it’s not the easiest listen or most accessible song. It also has Finland’s Blind Channel to contend with during the second half as much as the two offer different types of rock and will appeal to slightly different audiences.

Malta’s early running order of 6 does feel like a setback for it in terms of televote as much as it arrives as the first obvious contender and will stand out. Switzerland, for all of its effort to try and appear worthy and artistic, has the feel of something that will also come up short on the televote side.

It is unaided by having Iceland immediately follow it, an entry that should go down well with the tv audience, despite Daði og Gagnamagnið having to rely on their second rehearsal performance. The running order change up between Switzerland and Iceland might also suggest Iceland won semi 2.

Iceland could easily end up crashing in price tonight as it looks like one likely to be bigged up by Graham Norton given the band’s profile, and UK punters can be like lemmings following the cues of the BBC commentary.

For a period of months now ESC traders have been deliberating over this year’s perplexing jury and televote split. Will France be able to pull far enough clear on the jury vote to fend off Italy’s charge on the televote? Could Maneskin go higher than anticipated on the jury side? Could Pravi go higher than anticipated on the televote? In truth, no one knows how this one is going to play out and it could end up being incredibly close.

Pravi enthrals and connects like no other entry this year. It feels like an iconic Eurovision moment and it’s the emotional pull of ‘Voila’ which could prove the key differentiator

The call here is France for the win but with no great confidence, Italy 2nd, Malta 3rd, Switzerland 4th, Iceland 5th and Ukraine 6th. The scrap for the lower places in the top 10, as is often the case, is harder to call but Bulgaria should be doing enough on both sides of the voting equation to secure a top 10 finish.

Finland and Lithuania, both featuring in that impressive run of second half entries from 16 to 20, probably have enough quality to also achieve top 10 finishes.

Portugal, while a potential jury hit, feels hamstrung by its running order of 7 and being sandwiched between Malta and Serbia. Belgium, meanwhile, isn’t a forlorn hope for a top 10 and will be looking to pull an Estonia 2015 from the 4 slot. Geike for Hooverphonic was superb last night whereas Pedro for The Black Mamba wasn’t at his best.

As a value play, the advice here is to back Serbia to grab a top 10 place. While jurors won’t have been especially kind, this Balkan banger could go really well on the televote side tonight.

Squeezed between Serbia and Greece, the UK will struggle to gain any traction with televoters. Its one chance of avoiding the wooden spoon may come courtesy of Spain

The Cyprus vs Greece head-to-head looks as fiendishly difficult to call as ever. Cyprus opens which will help its televote but there’s a sense ‘Last Dance’ is the strongest entry Greece has sent since ‘Alcohol Is Free’ and Stefania is a telegenic winner. If the diaspora is roused, Greece could edge it and looks over-priced.

In terms of last place, the UK, sadly, looks firmly in the mix. Squeezed between Serbia and Greece it will struggle to gain any traction with televoters. Its one chance of avoiding the wooden spoon may come courtesy of Spain, or possibly Germany.

Coincidentally, it has been 44 years since France last won Eurovision, the same winless streak experienced by The Netherlands, prior to Duncan Laurence’s victory in 2019.

This has been the trickiest of years for ESC traders and we are all heading into tonight with a greater degree of trepidation and uncertainty than usual. The words to Rudyard Kipling’s poem ‘If’ have never felt more apt.

Good luck with all your investments this evening and let’s hope we can all come out the other side better off financially, if not mentally, after what has been a gruelling ESC trading season.

A big thank you to Matt for all his efforts helping provide rehearsal coverage from Rotterdam this year. Here are his views ahead of tonight:

It’s the trickiest year I have experienced in 13 years of doing this, complicated by the viral emergence of Ukraine to cloud the picture further on the home straight.

There are six clear contenders to make a case for – though some are admittedly faint. These are France, Iceland, Italy, Malta, Switzerland and Ukraine. By their very nature they split into three jury songs and three televote songs and therein lies the dilemma.

I have always been concerned with France’s ability to connect with the TV audience at home, but each of the songs has a potential issue with one side of the equation.

In the end, there are three songs for me with the most potential to appeal to both halves and they make up my top 3: 1st Italy 2nd Switzerland 3rd Malta. The next three I have placed as follows: 4th Ukraine 5th France 6th Iceland. The top ten is completed by: 7th Lithuania 8th Cyprus 9th Bulgaria 10th Norway. Thanks for reading and good luck to everyone with your trading tonight.

Please do feel free to add your comments below – predicted winners, top 10s, and any value you spot out there in the Wild West of online betting firms.


  1. Montell

    My grand final top 10 prediction

    01. Italy
    02. Malta
    03. Switzerland
    04. Ukraine
    05. France
    06. Lithuania
    07. Iceland
    08. Russia
    09. Cyprus
    10. Greece

    Italy was my number one from the very first time I saw them perform in San Remo. I’m a big fan of Jack White, The White Stripes, Marilyn Manson. So I’m very biased judging Italy but Måneskin are simply world class rock stars. They’re stylish, they’re sexy, they rock the stage 100%. When I watch their performance I’m hooked from the first to the last second. I was sceptical at first about Italy winning because it’s rock. But Italy got the best draw, their performance is top notch and the song is good. So now I can see that happening.

    Before grand final r.o. was announced I actually had Malta as the winner, but they needed to be drawn 11th or 13th. Malta was always going to struggle with telvotes to begin with so that 6th position harms them even more, I think. Hey, but I think there’s a big change Malta won jury vote last night so they are still in contention.

    Everyone was talking about how the staging is bad. It’s not bad, but when you think about winning Eurovision something is still missing. This is still the best ballad of the year and it deserves to be in top 4.

    Well, I put Ukraine on top 4 just based on the stats. Everyone is listening to this song on iTunes and Spotify worldwide. This means something. The whole package is perfect. This is one of those numbers where I’m hooked from the first to the last second.

    I never understood this song. Even after I watched Barbara’s performance 5 times I still said to myself “Why is everyone liking this so much, it’s just an average ballad”. For me this nowhere near the same level as Salvador Sobral. I don’t feel the magic. Sorry, France.

    With the grand final full of female uptempo songs this boy band The Roop just shines. The chorus is very catchy and the performance is slick. Lithuania should go big with the televotes.

    This is another band that shines in the grand final full of female uptempo songs. Not a fan of the song, but they sound and look great. Their style is unique, so they probably will finish in the top 10.

    Russia reached top 10 with worse songs. It’s something authentic from Russia. Manizha is very passionate and convincing performer.

    I wasn’t a fan of the song but the staging is effective and elevates the song very well. This is worse than “Fuego” but much better than “Replay”.

    This is the best song from Greece since Alcohol Is Free. In the past Greece used to be top 10 all the time. I don’t rate Bulgaria very high, so I’d say Greece is the best Balkan country this year. That should give them top 10 result. But it’s just a guess. Finland, Azerbaijan, San Marino or Serbia could easily get the last spot in top 10.

  2. Montell

    Betfair Sportsbook

    Italy & Malta both top 5 finish @2.0

    Italy & Malta top 5 finish, France, Ukraine, Switzerland, Iceland & Lithuania top 10 finish

  3. neomichael

    Lithuania: Top5
    For me it is still a puzzle why Malta has been placed 6th. I don’t buy the the idea that producers are not using the results in order to keep the interest of the TV viewer. At least that was the way to go all these years. I believe that Malta didn’t finish first in the SemiA and maybe finished in the top 3 together with Lithuania and Ukraine. Maybe that high note in the 2nd run alienated the jury on the night , I don’t know. I’m expecting one of Lithuania or Ukraine to overpass Malta tonight. Most probably based on the current hype this could be Ukraine. But if this is Lithuania, I would say Top5 of Lithuania at 5.0 is a good bet. Lithuania has finished 4th in the OGAE with the exact same presentation, and was also among the contenders for winning semiB from the first spot. I also believe that vocally Lithuania is more stable than Ukraine Fun bet: Lithuania wining the televoting with 50 🙂

    Serbia: Top 10
    Serbia is right before the first commercial break. I’m not a fun of the song but I see some similarities with the Norway of 2019 which I was not a fun neither. At 6 seems like a good value for a borderline Top10 contender.

    Winning Forecast: 1.France 2.Italy (or the other way around)
    Although not 100% confident of last night’s performance of Barbara, I believe she will win it. After Finland, Lithuania and especially Ukraine this sounds like a heaven of quality that can capture points both from televoting and juries. Among the other contenders for the first two positions I can only see Italy.

    Enjoy the night and good luck with your bets everyone!

  4. Here’s my TOP 26 prediction guys ;-):

    In detail:

    Short summary:
    01. France
    02. Italy
    03. Switzerland
    04. Iceland
    05. Malta
    06. Ukraine
    07. Bulgaria
    08. Lithuania
    09. Portugal
    10. San Marino
    11. Cyprus
    12. Netherlands
    13. Greece
    14. Finland
    15. Norway
    16. Russia
    17. Serbia
    18. Sweden
    19. Israel
    20. Albania
    21. Belgium
    22. Germany
    23. Azerbaijan
    24. Moldova
    25. Spain
    26. United Kingdom

    • Guildo Horn Forever

      Hi Gert,

      Is that songfestivalwerk! from Sofabet?! If so, I well remember you championing Conchita Wurst at a time when Austria that year was about 66s on the sportsbooks. I wish I’d listened to you!

      I’m not Dutch, yet I agree with you about The Netherlands being potentially under-rated. I’ve only seen a rehearsal snatch, but the singer seems to comes across as warm and friendly, the very distinctive dancer was memorable, and it seems like a feel-good song that could extend a nice feel of communion. I should hazard that the juries could also be friendly to a strong, warm black man (have the terrific Cesár Sampson in mind there) singing a feel-good song with a strong African vibe. There’s absolutely nothing like this in the competition.

      Just realised I must have missed watching it in full, in one of the Semis. Just found it. He’s a really good singer! And a good mover, with a great smile. Backing vocalists sound in fine voice, too. Fairly simple song but pleasant vibes. Quality. Professional and tight.

      I think obviously the massive worry about it is that it precedes Italy, but a draw of 23 has its compensations and if it’s primarily relying upon its jury vote then preceding Italy is slightly diminished as an issue.

      Best of luck!

      • Guildo Horn Forever

        Mentioning Sofabet has got me a bit sad as I consider that by this time today I would have read Daniel’s traditional Grand Final Preview.

        • Montell

          I miss sofabet times as well. was also great. At least we still have Thank you Rob.

  5. It’s a head-scratcher this year. Doubts about the others have me honing in on France and Italy. Good luck all.


  6. David Slade

    Going on trends, if you count Conchita as female then we have had an alternative female and male soloist every year since 2014 so that has been a factor in me siding with France and also going Bulgaria top 10. I do worry about the French habit of underachieving but I think Voila has the uniqueness that we get with most winners in these post 2008 halcyon days of Eurovision, which uniqueness Italy slightly lacks. I’ve also gone for Israel for top 10 and top 15 places as I think it’s a catchy tune with the 2 USPs at the end of the costume change and the impossibly high note so the odds for both of those looked tempting. Germany to finish bottom is my other bet.

  7. Ian Follin

    France all the way for me. Has been from day 1. The passion and intimacy that Barbara portrays in this song is unmatched this year. Italy is a really catchy tune and Ukraine is infectious, but the televote battle between Ukraine and France, I think will ultimately decide this song contest. Malta being buried at 6 is a massive blow for them, whilst Switzerland have an excellent 1st half draw in 11.
    San Marino closing with Flo Rida, should ensure top 10 for them.
    My bets:
    France to win.
    France to win Malta top 5
    Italy televote winner
    San Marino top 10

  8. Montell

    I correctly picked 9/10 qualifiers in SF1 in SF2 and I correctly picked 9/10 TOP 10 countries in the grand final. Wow!

  9. Guildo Horn Forever

    My crappy Top 10 bets suffered the fate they deserved, and Ukraine fell short of Malta in their Semi and so didn’t come to my rescue. Drat. I was relatively late into this year’s ESC betting journey so I kept stakes small and so that’s ok.

    It was obvious from the Grand Final running order that the EBU wanted to be taking the party to Italy next year. Italy were absolutely fantastic and worthy winners. France was absolutely fantastic, too, and would have been a worthy winner. And it was a pretty close-run thing between the two of them, all told.

    I think there were multiple issues with Malta. a) the draw was v difficult in a battery of ways, b) the staging was cheap and gaudy. One betting pundit likened its visual presentation to an advert for bingo! Haha! Once I heard that I couldn’t un-see it! Malta had a cameo from Flo Rida while Malta had to make do with the spirit of a smartly suited fox. It exacerbated the senses that Destiny was overtrying to ‘sell’ you something.

    Switzerland exceeded expectations. I always had the utmost respect for Gjon’s stellar vocals and always really enjoyed the song but I thought the choreography for Gjon was crazy. I think the staging was too abstract and even pretentious, but I think the combination of close-up shots of Gjon’s face (a choice I did always like) and his wild nerdy movements were a) memorable and b) perhaps turned out to be endearing and humanising. It turned out to be a right kind of wrong. Whether this was by accident or design is difficult to judge with any confidence.

    Iceland. I love Daði Freyr and to me he’s on a par with the great Jarvis Cocker. I did have a bit of a worry that because he doesn’t belt out a single note in his song that the juries might undermark him for a lack of vocal dynamics. But I was fairly confident that that wouldn’t happen – out of respect specifically for him, having written back-to-back terrific songs for 2020 and for 2021. He’s a top quality songwriter and the attention to small details in Iceland’s presentation was clearly appreciated. Being a ‘returning artist’ of sorts really helped Daði more than most, I feel. Possibly Gjon also benefitted from that. Both Gjon and Daði were partially being rewarded for two year’s, or ESCs, worth of songs?

    I’ve noticed that the two I loved and obsessed about (from before rehearsals) finished 2nd and 5th. Something for me to consider for next year. Usually it can be very instructive and very revealing to read press centre insiders’ rehearsal reports on which acts’ staging was hitting the sweet spot and which weren’t. This ESC seems to have been an outlier in that respect as that’s been v hit and miss and it feels as though the good songs have just risen to the top no matter the staging, and vice-versa.

    I still wish Barbara Pravi had won 🙁 Bloody Italy!

  10. Montell

    Malta not finishing top 5 ruined a lot of bets. It suffered a big televotes drop from the semi final to grand final. 151 televote points in the semi final and only 47 points in the grand final. Astonishing and unexpected. But even with a better draw Malta wouldn’t have won. The more I think about it, Malta looked like a really good Melfest act that’s why it finished exactly where Sweden has been finishing in the last 4-5 years. Also I really agree with this comment by Guildo “It exacerbated the senses that Destiny was overtrying to ‘sell’ you something”.

  11. neomichael

    So, can anyone give any explanation why Malta was placed 6th in the final while having most points(325) among the countries in the Semis (more than Switzerland, Iceland which placed in favorable positions in 1st half) . Could it really be that producers didn’t know the results or just wanted to remove the major contender and increase changes for delivering the trophy to Italy or France?
    And on more thing, is the final televoting performance justifiable solely to the running order or you find any other reason to explain why Malta gathered even less than the 1/3 of the points of what had acquired in the semi final.

    • Rob

      I’m assuming after the EBU awarded Malta the pimp slot in sf1, there was a decision not to give it as much favour in the grand final, also due to the fact as an uptempo track it would have impact coming on at 6. Rybak was given the 7 slot after winning his sf from slot 1 in 2018 so it wasn’t entirely without precedent.
      The EBU probably also got fed up with the Maltese delegation’s antics during sf1 when it demanded a re-run for Destiny for no apparent reason other than it didn’t want to surrender the pimp slot to Ukraine.
      All in all, I think the EBU ended up putting its foot down. Malta was trying to throw its weight around going all out for victory this year and the EBU reminded it, it calls the shots, not Malta.
      I think there was always the sense of a televote shortfall in play with Malta and that was likely to see it come up short. The Sat night grand final must see many millions more votes cast compared to the sfs in which it’s probably the hardcore ESC fan community which ends up having more say, and televote totals would be much, much less.

      • neomichael

        Hmm, I have never thought that uptempo tracks may are affected more by the running order. This is an interesting idea.
        Rybak was also the other inexplicable decision of the running order. That time I thought that he didn’t succeed in the final because it was already the second time the viewers was watching him in the TV (after the semi) and so the novelty factor was decreased. ..And that EBU already was anticipating this and that he wouldn’t perform that well, so didn’t place him in a good position. But to some extend it can also be the combination of running order and uptempo song and the fact that EBU simply didn’t want him to win, as apparently happened with Malta this year.

        Thanks Rob and Matt, it was a pleasure being here for one more year. Enjoy your profits and see you in 2022!

        • Rob

          Thanks Michael. Also, Moldova 2017 – drawn 7 in the grand final, achieved 3rd place on the televote having been 2nd on the televote in its sf.
          So, some parallels with Malta & highlighting that if the televote appeal is there it can happen from an early r.o. position in the grand final.
          Ultimately, the conclusion we can draw is, ‘Je Me Casse’ simply didn’t have the televote appeal required to win.

  12. Showlad

    As ESC 2022 is off with a bang, a timely reflection of ESC 2022.

    I think a year to mark up as ‘experience’ for the vast majority of us and a real turner on their heads for many (rightful) expectations.

    France was the class act and absolutely hit the performance out of the park. The producers obv wanted an Italian win. Placing France and the best uptempo side by side took quite a few points off of each and esp off of France. Put into the mix the Belgian and Danish jury’s 0 points to France (wtf?!) and voila. I have no doubt whatsoever had Fra not followed Ukr and had Ita not been drawn later on and had not followed the lovely but brain numbingly borefest of NL we would be going to Paris.

    Covid played havoc with traders and took lots of joy away from your trading enjoyment having to be permanently glued to news updates in case of your bets falling foul of the fekin virus.

    Other noteables:
    I held steadfast in my various tips on Iceland (despite a sea of negativity from some traders) and to lose the semi by 3 points kind of summed up ESC 2021 for me ha ha. Still Semi Top 3 and Final Top 4 was good.
    Bulgaria’s staging for me and the performance didn’t connect and much better would have been solo on stage with much on the staging on background/flooring graphics.
    Ukraine surprised me to the exetent of the Televote support.
    Malta and San Marino’s massive televote flop for me again showed in no small way a racist element to the televote. Unfortunately.
    Sacha JBP’s staging again was hugely bipolar. She contributed to Malta’s flopping by an APPALLING staging and deplorable lack of effort or imagination and all of her energy obv went into an at times brilliant staging for Switzerland (which in turn hugely helped save their televote) and Gjon to his credit performed out of his skin. Destiny cried out for a speakeasy setting with period male dancers in 20s attire and her cool as f*** in a Jessica Rabbit kind of styling. It reminded me of Luca Hanni in 2019 whose song cried out for a live bar set up and in walks the hot girl and a Strictly style showdown – instead let’s do a workout in our red gym outfits??? One (or none) staging for SJB in 2022 methinks.

    2022 promises so so much for a truly memorable Eurovision and a much smoother prediction path for traders and fun flutterers!

    Thanks for this year Rob (7.16pm New Year’s Eve as I type) and so looking forward to Eurovision 2022!!! Remembering Daniel Sofabet 🙂

    All the best for 2022 folks and fellow posters 🙂

    • Rob

      Thanks for posting, Showlad. You make some great points re. ESC 2021. EBU definitely chose to back Italy over France for the win. It was interesting listening to a recent Jon Ola Sand interview in which he spoke in glowing terms about Italy’s return to ESC, & moving Eurovision to the main RAI channel…
      I think we learnt again that you need the complete package to compete for the win at ESC. Italy and France had this whereas Switzerland, Iceland and Malta fell below winning standard.
      There were myriad issues with Destiny which resulted in a poor televote, I think. Of course, we learnt afterwards, as the full-time ESC traders suspected at the time, Malta was pumping cash into the Outright to ensure it was spoken of among the favourites to win.
      The official line from TPTB in Rotterdam was, they do not take into consideration the results of the two semi-finals when deciding the running order of the grand final.
      I would take this with a huge pinch of salt looking ahead to ESC 2022.

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