Eurovision 2018 - main Grand Final preview
We've seen all of the countries perform in the semi finals (jury show in the case of the big five and Portugal) now and the song that stands out above all for me is the entry from Cyprus.
Although Fuego came across as a solid song from the minute their music video was released several months ago, it has been properly brought to life on stage by Eleni Foureira's electric performances since rehearsals began last week.
A high tempo performance, with strong visuals and fireballs galore, I really hope Cyprus won the first semi final to land our bet at 33/1 - though we still won't find out the result of that until after the Grand Final is over. They had been backed into 11/10 at the start of the semi to win on the night, so we keep everything crossed.
It has now reached a point where I think Cyprus are too short to back in the outright market, however. They've been handed an ideal draw in 25th, which is where Bulgaria were allocated last year after they had won the second semi final, and they seem to tick every box, but given we have already have the semi final bet on them, I don't want to be investing further. If they prevailed in that market last Tuesday then we'll consider it "job done".
I put up Bulgaria each-way for the final at 22/1 yesterday when Paddy Power offered an enhanced fifth place in their market. Paddy Power have since reverted back to four places EW, though Sky Bet now offer 40/1 and pay down to fifth!
Their song, Bones, has been drawn 18th in the running order, after the third (and final) break, and with several other Balkan countries now eliminated - most notably Greece but also Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, it is possible Bulgaria could pick up votes there. Albania, Serbia and Slovenia are all in the final, though all have been allocated first-half draws.
If Bulgaria are to make the top five to land a minor return, they are probably going to need to fare well with the jury - theirs is a dark and eerie song and novelty songs like Israel and Moldova, or a complete package like Cyprus, are the ones who could usurp them on the televote.
Top 10 finish
With Poland now eliminated - scuppering the ante post put up before their semi on Thursday - Moldova are the ones who now interest me for a top 10 finish instead.
They've been handed position 19 in the running order - after the last break - and you got the impression on Thursday that their slapstick performance went down well in the arena and could have scored well with the jury.
Moldova massively outperformed market expectations when third overall in last year's competition. They were only the eighth highest scorers with the jury then, though they were the third highest scorers on the televote and did remarkably well considering they had been on early in the running order (seventh).
William Hill go 11/8 for a top 10 finish and if they can pick up extra points from the televote in Russia's surprise absence then there is a chance they could ruffle a few feathers again this year.
Saara Aalto did us a star turn in the first semi final on Tuesday, qualifying with Finland, though I did have a sense of 'there was just something missing' with the performance, a feeling replicated with every act in the semis but Cyprus if I am being honest.
However, in this particular market there is no Cyprus or clucking chickens from Israel to consider.
I felt slightly underwhelmed watching Alexander Ryback perform for Norway on Thursday and with the latter having been handed a low position in the running order (seventh) there now looks to be a strong case for thinking Sweden can justify favouritism in this market.
Denmark's is a solid entry, and certainly unique to the competition, but they are stranded in the middle of the draw (15th) whereas Sweden, who I suspect may have won that second semi, have secured 20th spot.
Even when Sweden aren't sending a killer track like Euphoria to the final, they usually send something so polished and slick that it scores well with the jury, attracts solid televote scores, and can finish in contention (they've finished fifth in the last two competitions).
The UK head the 'to finish last' market at 2/1 and it seems we'll take a backwards step after Never Give Up On You finished in the top half in 15th last year.
The thing which helped Lucie Jones last year was that, as well has having an excellent voice, the BBC did a superb job of the staging for her and helped bring out the emotion of the song.
This year's effort, Storm, had the makings of being a Eurovision anthem, but the song keeps building up and building up but ultimately never hits the heights you are willing it to do on the chorus.
Performing ninth in the running order is far from ideal and you get the impression the song could be forgotten about when all of the big songs come on after the final break.
The likes of Serbia and Albania, surprise qualifiers, are further ones to consider, but it is possible they could pick up small scores if there is any tactical voting - something the UK is unlikely to benefit from.
I don't like Spain or Portugal's entries either and the former took this spot last year with the dreadful Do It For Your Lover. This year's soppy duet might just tug on somebody's heartstrings and get them a few televote points, though there is also the danger they may be upstaged by Lithuania's performance two songs later. Germany and Ireland have also sent entries from the similar sort of genre which may pinch votes off them due to their later draws, so I've dutched my bets on Spain in this market with the UK.
Portugal have the home crowd in their favour and might be able to keep a couple of places off the bottom, just as Ukraine managed to do when hosting 12 months ago.
Bet Stars have several match bets priced up.
I like the vocally-excellent Bulgaria to beat the vocally-shaky (in the rehearsals and semis at least) Australia (1.75) and The Netherlands, with their unique country entry, to beat surprise qualifiers Albania (1.85) from a much more favourable draw.
In summary, potential fun bets to consider for tonight.....
Moldova to finish top 10, 11/8 William Hill
Sweden to be top Scandinavian, Evs Boylesports
Spain to finish last 12/1 Betfred / UK to finish last 2/1 Coral
Bulgaria to finish above Australia (1.75 Bet Stars)
The Netherlands to finish above Albania (1.85 Bet Stars)
Bets from the ante post Grand Final preview
Poland top 10 finish 10/1 (didn't qualify)
Bulgaria each-way in the outright market 22/1 (5 places)