Eurovision 2017 - SF2 Preview
The first semi-final took place on Tuesday, and while we don't know the scores from the night (and won't do until after the final result is announced on Saturday), we do know Australia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Cyprus, Greece, Moldova, Poland, Portugal and Sweden have all booked their place in Saturday's main final.
Now onto semi-final two, which takes place on Thursday evening and will see 10 of the remaining 18 acts progress.....
Potential semi final two winners
I think Bulgaria are bankers here and odds on favouritism (best priced 4/5) for them is justified.
I must admit, when I first heard the studio version of Kristian Kostov's Beautiful Mess I wasn't particularly blown away, but this is a song that has very much grown on me since the acts took to the stage for rehearsals.
Kristian has such a strong voice that comes across very well live. The staging is laid back, but that is very much appropriate for the song. I expect this will top score in the jury vote in this semi - and deservedly so.
An interesting angle to consider with Bulgaria, too, is that Kristian was actually born in Moscow, and with Russia no longer in this year's competition (banned by hosts Ukraine), if any voters based in the former Soviet states are looking to vote close to home they could feasibly side with this talented teenager.
The only country I could now see now finishing close to Bulgaria in this semi-final is Romania, with their irritatingly catchy tune, Yodel It!, which somehow manages to mix rapping with yodelling.
Let's be honest, there are some drab acts at Eurovision and Norma John, very much one of them, was on the first plane home this morning after Finland were dumped out in the first semi.
There is a place in the final for fun, entertaining acts, and Romania, with the yodelling, LED screen packed with colour, and also their cannons (will confetti be spurting out on the big night tomorrow?), are certainly a novelty act.
Romania could fare very well on the tele vote, and while odds of 1/8 for them to qualify are prohibitive for the semi itself, I have backed them to finish in the top 10 in the main final, with a smaller bet on them to sneak into the top four too.
Other qualification contenders
Estonia's catchy duet, Verona has rock-solid claims of qualifying from a great draw (penultimate act to perform), while Israel, who follow them in the running order, have an upbeat entry in I Feel Alive, that could feasibly emulate Golden Boy from 2015, which finished in ninth in the overall final, and also look set to progress by ending the show on a high.
A less obvious potential qualifier, and one written off in the betting, is Macedonia.
Macedonia have failed to qualify from eight of their last nine semi finals and have submitted some real dross over the years, though this year they have enlisted the help of respected connections.
Two of the songwriters, Joacim Bo Persson and Borislav Milanov, along with choreographer Ambra Succi, were involved with Bulgaria's If Love Was A Crime (fourth overall in the main final) 12 months ago and Succi actually worked with Loreen when she won the 2012 competition for Sweden with Euphoria.
Her team have put together an interesting entry in Dance Alone, with its retro pop vibe, and it was considered one of the dark horses for the competition once the studio tracks were released.
I was drawn into backing them at 33/1 EW to win semi final two at that point, though when live rehearsals began I pretty much gave up hope on the bet as singer Jana's vocals were rather shaky. She had lip synced during the promotion tour in the weeks leading up to Eurovision and it seemed like she was short on confidence.
However, her performances seem to have been a work in progress, and with her team working on getting the mixing right, as well as Succi working on her dance routine, she turned in a much improved performance in the dress rehearsals and could potentially be ready to peak at the right time.
If she can pinch a few jury votes (through her association with Persson, Milanov and Succi) and her vocals hold up tomorrow, she might just be able to sneak qualification in ninth of 10th spot, as there is plenty of filler in there later on in the running order (I expect Jana will be the fifth to perform now Russia are out) and she wouldn't be the only act with basic staging (Belgium, for example, qualified on Tuesday).
Betfred go 7/4 for Macedonia to qualify, which seems fair in my opinion.
Netherlands' three sisters, Og3ne, seem to have impressed many since moving on stage and brought a drab studio track to life, with the betting now suggesting they'll be expected to qualify.
There are some dull acts among those in the bottom of the betting, so maybe the likes of Hungary and Croatia might pick up enough votes to sneak through as well.
Croatia, in particular, is rather bizarre, with singer Jacques, a vocal coach from the Croatian version of The Voice, appearing to sing both parts of a duet himself!
I would like to see Norway progress with Grab The Moment, and I think they might sneak in, though it might not be plain sailing and it could be touch and go for them, only 12 months on from seeing Agnete fail to qualify with what seemed a solid enough entry in Icebreaker.
Denmark's Anja won the Voice in Australia in 2014 and might be able to limp through even if she's probably competing against the likes of Switzerland and Serbia in terms of song type.
Austria's Running On Air is a feelgood tune that has an element of Maroon 5 to it and, for the sake of variety, may be more likely to qualify.
San Marino's Spirit of The Night looks a prime candidate to finish bottom but they are priced around 6/4 on Betfair, with no firms offering the market at the time of writing.
Bulgaria to win semi final two 4/5 Coral
Macedonia to qualify from semi final two 7/4 Betfred