Who See The Qualification Value

Apr 9, 2013 by

Who See The Qualification Value

Having been busy over the last week or so listening to the 2 semi-finals in running order, this has sparked some thoughts over which entries come out of it well, and which less so, but with the first semi only 5 weeks away, this year’s qualification picture remains shrouded in mystery.

Despite the smaller size of this year’s semi-finals there look to be more borderline entries than usual this year. Both semis are shaping up to be a bit of a minefield and this in itself is reason enough to seek the value among the bigger priced nations in the qualification market.

It only requires a quick look back at recent ESC semi-finals to see the fine margins that can be involved when it comes to the points differential between qualification and non-qualification.

In semi 2 last year, for instance, Norway’s Tooji (Stay) snuck in in 10th place only on count back, ahead of poor, lonely Sofi Marinova (Love Unlimited) for Bulgaria, with both nations tied on 45. Norway was considered something of a qualifying good thing while few had given Sofi any chance whatsoever.

In semi 1 in 2011, Anna Rossinelli (In Love For A While) for Switzerland finished 10th with 55pts, with Malta (Glen Vela, One Life) in 11th and Armenia (Emmy, Boom Boom) 12th, both only 1pt behind. In semi 2 that year Belgium (Witloof Bay, With Love Baby) – another widely overlooked entry – lost out by only 1pt to Moldova (Zdob si Zdub, So Lucky) for 10th place.

This is a little unnerving recalling having backed Moldova quite heavily for qualification in 2011. And having also backed Hungary to qualify from semi 1 last year – where it managed 10th place, only 7pts ahead of 11th – along with Macedonia in semi 2 – 9th place, 8pts clear of Norway and Bulgaria – they, again, were rather too close for comfort.

This is the long-standing dilemma for ESC punters seeking more generous qualification/non-qualification prices – you are almost guaranteed to be involving yourself in these close leaderboard scenarios. And the often very small points differences between a winning qualification punt and a losing one will likely rest on some extremely difficult to predict jury subjectivity. A subjectivity which is going to come under greater scrutiny this year courtesy of the new scoring system.

In semi 1, if having to call the likely qualifiers as of today, we could only come up with 6: Serbia, Russia, Ukraine, Denmark, Netherlands, Belarus. And even then there is a slight doubt regarding Alyona’s vocal for Belarus. The strange thing about this semi is, we can easily give a chance to the remaining 10 nations.

There is a sense the first 4 songs in this semi are all vulnerable, given the strong run of solo females from 5-8. However, it is also noticeable how Slovenia breathes life into this semi as the first properly uptempo number, arriving in the 3 slot. It is likely to be very well sung by the accomplished Hannah Mancini, and early clips of the staging of ‘Straight Into Love’ look promising.

Natalia Kelly of Austria has questions to answer regarding her live abilities, while Estonia comes across as a little too meandering and ponderous, regardless of the new, improved version. Birgit has a good voice but the a capella moment that has been added to her song sounded rather odd on first listen. Given their early running order positions and the intense solo female competition in this semi, both of these look more likely non-qualifiers at this early stage.

Croatia might well prove catnip for juries and the tenors who form Klapa s Mora certainly have a USP which could work in their favour, but the composition of this semi potentially plays into the hands of the uptempo songs even more. Lithuania, Moldova and Cyprus are certainly all in danger of being eclipsed in the 2nd half of semi 1 falling as they do between the much livelier efforts from Montenegro, Belarus, Ireland and Belgium.

There are still some significant doubts for us over Aliona Moon’s vocal. Thanks to Tim B for posting a live clip of her singing ‘O Mie’ in Romanian, which can be viewed here. She is certainly not a vocal powerhouse. It sounds like she is playing it safe and not pushing the higher register, where she appeared to struggle in the Moldovan final. If it comes down to vocal prowess in rating the solo females in this semi she could fall behind the likes of Birgit, Dina Garipova, Zlata Ognevich, Anouk and Despina Olympiou.

Live footage suggests Despina is a competent vocalist and she is singing the type of ballad that in usual circumstances you would have down as a big jury hit. Cyprus also has a good late draw in 14. So when we see Austria priced at 4-6 and Estonia at 11-10 to qualify, Cyprus looks good value in comparison at 4.0 to qualify with Unibet, and worth a small investment. Cyprus’s lack of voting power in this semi tempers optimism.

Belgium has certainly gone up in our estimations after listening to it in its running order position of 15 though Roberto Bellarosa, much like Ireland’s Ryan Dolan, has some serious questions to answer regarding his live vocal prowess based on YouTube footage we have seen. Of course, backing singers can cover a multitude of sins and only the rehearsal period will tell us more.

If Montenegro can bring ‘Igranka’ to life on stage, it will be highly distinctive in getting the 2nd half of this semi underway. Who See are an established hip-hop duo who should be able to perform this song with requisite professionalism. Nina Zizic is potentially the biggest plus for this song’s chances as she appears to have a very decent live vocal, again based on YouTube footage.

Confronted by entries that look like borderline qualifiers, our advice would always be to take the value option. If you have analyzed things correctly and it really is very close to a 50/50 call, then the value has to reside in anything above Evens, either on the ‘to qualify’ or ‘not to qualify’ side. And the higher the odds are available above Evens, the more your eyes should light up as a value seeker IF you can make a strong case for such entries.

So, our early advice for semi 1 would also be to back Montenegro at 4.7 to qualify with Unibet. Slovenia to qualify at 3.2 with both bwin and Unibet, Moldova at 2.6 not to qualify with Unibet, and Austria not to qualify at 2.4 with Unibet.

If you correctly pinpoint the value, the market will move in your favour on Betfair, and this opens up the possibility to lay your backs for qualification at shorter prices, and back your lays for qualification (a qualification lay on Betfair being the equivalent of a ‘not to qualify’ bet on the high street) at bigger prices. And in these situations you can end up locking in a guaranteed profit regardless of whether the nation in question qualifies or not.

The switch from fractional to decimal prices can be quite confusing, as can figuring out what the equivalent lay price is on Betfair in relation to the ‘not to qualify’ odds quoted on the high street. Suffice to say, backing Moldova at 2.6 not to qualify is the same as laying Moldova to qualify at roughly 1.62 on Betfair. Backing Austria at 2.4 not to qualify is the same as laying Austria to qualify at roughly 1.71 on Betfair.

All of the above is very much an initial assessment of semi 1 based on what we know as of today and opinions will no doubt change as we learn more. Talking of which, this weekend we will be attending the Amsterdam ESC Concert and seeing 26 of this year’s entries perform live. Hopefully this will provide further pointers. A report will follow early next week, as will an analysis of the semi 2 qualification value.

Do you agree with the early value picks as outlined above? Can you see one of Serbia, Ukraine, Russia, Denmark, Belarus or Netherlands being a shock non-qualifier? Please do drop us a line with your semi 1 qualification thoughts below.


  1. Rob

    Some more ESC prices available with bwin including some interesting head-to-head quotes in semi 1.

  2. Tim B

    Montenegro at 4.7 to qualify is mega value, at least for a potential trade. ‘Igranka’ has gone viral in the Balkans, of which there are three voting in this semi. It really is pretty massive – this is the type of music that Balkan people actually listen to, I am reliably informed by eurovicious. The song will receive 12 points from Serbia, about 10 points from Croatia and will have 8 points ‘coming from Slovenia’. That’s 30 points straight away. Rob, have you worked out how many points may be needed for a country to qualify from this semi? What’s questionable is how well the song will do with all the other countries here – Western ones like the UK will surely dismiss it as daft.

    Slovenia I could not back to qualify, even on value grounds. Backing Slovenia to qualify is effectively saying that one of Croatia or The Netherlands will not qualify – and I think both will. Historically only 4 countries maximum qualify from the first half and I already have 5 from here going through. Hannah possesses a strong live vocal, but this isn’t the kind of song juries would go for. ‘Straight Into Love’ is a nice uptempo change after Estonia but it’s also a bit of a racket, and one of the fan favourites I can see easily failing. The first three songs failing to qualify from a semi isn’t particularly unusual.

    Austria has a mountain to climb in order to qualify. Her voice is weak, they have almost no voting power, have only qualified once, are on first and Natalia will be eclipsed by each and every female after her in this first half. I layed this to qualify and will be backing it further not to qualify.

    Cyprus I can’t see qualifying either. The song is too beige – reminds me a lot of Portugal from last year. They are pretty friendless in this semi and I can’t see people rushing to pick up their phones after the financial crisis in Cyprus recently. No value in them to qualify for me – amazingly someone wanted to back them on Betfair at 2.8 so I happily took it.

    Moldova may not qualify, but right now I’m thinking they probably will. Layed at 1.4, which is good value, so I will hold onto this until rehearsals.

    Belgium – surely not! Roberto’s live vocal at the NF was atrocious, so unless he can siginificantly improve I wouldn’t give them a chance. Having said that, I wouldn’t want to oppose this yet given the slot in the running order. I do think Serbia will eclipse him massively though.

  3. Boki

    I agree that Montenegro is the value but I would like to see the rehearsal before I commit. Btw Tim, no chance they will get 8 points from Slovenia (maybe on televote but jury from Slovenia has a tendency to ignore Balkan entries, they gave 0 points to Bosnia and Macedonia last year).
    I fully agree with Tim on Slovenia (already backed NQ @1.5).
    For the rest will wait for the rehearsals, this semi is really weird and have a feeling that something weird has to happen but still didn’t workout what 🙂

    • Tim B

      That’s some good knowledge regarding Slovenia’s jury, Boki, but surely the jury changes from year to year? Perhaps it’ll be more like 25 points to Montenegro from the three other Balkan countries.

      • Boki

        Hi Tim, that knowledge for the last year came from eurovicious actually, he posted some Slovenian jury results. It’s only last year but I always had a feeling that they want to prove they are less Balkan oriented than what people think (which is actually true since their mentality is closer to Austria).

  4. Rob

    Given Norway got through semi 2 last year with 45pts, & that was an 18-strong semi, it is quite plausible we will see a nation go through from semi 1 this year with as low as 40pts. Maybe even lower.

    We have had 5 nations qualify from the 1st half of a semi before & I would not get caught up in that particular stat, Tim. I see no reason why as many as 6 cannot qualify among the first 8 in semi 1 this year.

    Croatia should be well supported by juries, though this is by no means a given in a semi with so many jury-friendly songs. It certainly does not rate as a good thing to qualify given its poor draw & the fact the vast majority of televoters will likely be turned off by it.

    Belgium like Ireland should not be touched until we hear them during rehearsals, as both these vocalists certainly have questions to answer.

    Slovenia looks value in terms of its ‘to qualify’ price, as does Montenegro, as does Cyprus, as does Moldova as a ‘not to qualify’ proposition on all known variables at our disposal atm.

    The semis this year look trappy and are shaping up to be very tight so in my view it is best to take a value approach.

    Portugal 2012 is a good parallel with Cyprus this year, though Cyprus has a better draw & it is worth remembering Portugal was only 6pts off 10th.

  5. Rob

    Listening to the songs in order, Slovenia certainly has impact. It has more chance of qualifying than either Austria or Estonia on all known variables imo, & on that basis it looks value atm. But all Q/NQ stakes should be kept low until we have more information at our disposal during rehearsals.

    As you point out Boki, funny things can happen in ESC semis. There is often this bubble of certainty that builds up surrounding ESC entries, only for the bubble to well & truly burst. The way Denmark has been hammered in the Outright market on the back of topping various fan polls is a classic example of this.

  6. Rob

    More prices up from bwin – they must be enjoying a roaring trade on ESC this year.

  7. Rob

    Ladbrokes have semi-final prices up & they go a quarter the odds first 3.

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