Tuesday was an interesting night for those who like to gamble on the Eurovision Song Contest, with a few surprises, at least statistically: the Netherlands qualifying for the first time since 2004, plus a blanket failure by the ex-Yugoslav nations, with none of Slovenia, Montenegro, Croatia or Serbia making it to the Saturday night show.
So where's the value in the betting markets for tonight's second semi-final? In theory, it should be a much less predictable affair, with an interesting mix of voting countries and musical styles to choose from. Despite this, the qualification market shows a clearer picture at the top of the scoreboard: the available prices for Norway (1.02), Georgia (1.04), Azerbaijan (1.05) and Greece (1.07) suggest that there are four very clear favourites to reach the grand final, and it's hard to argue with that. Interestingly, next in line is Malta at 1.36, followed by Israel and fan fave San Marino at 1.4.
At the other end of the market, Latvia (5.5) and Macedonia (5) are the clear outsiders, but again, it's difficult to find too many counterarguments there. More interesting are the prices for the hipster-friendly Hungary (3.8), Switzerland with its potentially huge Salvation Army televote (2.95) or even perpetual qualifier Romania (2.55), whose singer Cezar is unquestionably ridiculous but is blessed with an optimal draw, closing the semi-final with the bombastic and spectacular "It's My Life" (even if it's spectacular for all the wrong reasons). Any of these bets could represent good value - though I'm most tempted by the 2 that's available for Bulgaria, represented by the experienced Elitsa & Stoyan in a semi-final that's full of potentially friendly countries.
On the non-qualification side, if you don't buy into the Valentina Monetta hype, you can still find a healthy 3.2 if you believe that San Marino will fail to make it to the final. Finland's "Marry Me" is a hugely western-friendly song and performance, and 3.25 says that the rest of Europe will turn its back to a sufficient extent. But I'm perhaps most drawn to the 3.4 that's available for Malta to fail to qualify - Gianluca hasn't been hugely impressive in rehearsals and I'm not convinced that the friendly and cheerful vibe of the song comes across well enough on stage.
While the markets are convinced that there are four clear qualifiers, there's less of a consensus when it comes to the winner of the second semi-final. Norway is currently leading the way at 2.8, with Georgia next in line (4.32). For me, however, a Thursday night audience with this voting demographic could easily vote in numbers for Koza Mostra from Greece, and a price of 10 for them to win the semi-final seems well worth a look. Alternatively, if you want a real punt, Latvia is available for a mere 228. Anybody...?
The top 3 finish market opens up some interesting possibilities, although (as with the winner market) bets won't be settled until after the full results are revealed, presumably in the early hours of Sunday morning. Here, Greece is still decent value at 2.12, but I'd be looking at some interesting outsiders instead. For example, Israel is the only song in the "dramatic female ballad" genre tonight (unless you count the first two minutes of San Marino), so it could easily suck up a lot of jury votes. If you think that's enough for them to reach the podium positions, a price of 9 is currently available. Similarly, the Icelandic ballad could cut through the field and take points from everywhere - a quite generous 13 can be found for Eythor and "Ég á líf". Alternatively, you could play it ultra-safe and take the 1.66 that's available for Georgia to finish in the top 3 - surely a banker?
Finally, let's take a look at the head-to-heads that are available from Bwin this time. Most interesting to me is San Marino vs. Israel, where Israel is seen as the outsider at a price of 1.95! I find it hard to conceive of a situation where Moran Mazor is outscored by Valentina Monetta, so that's a very tempting bet. By contrast, the San Marino vs. Greece match-up has Greece as the favourites, but 1.50 is still a very welcoming price for the more committed gambler. And if I'm tipping Greece as the semi-final winner, I suppose I have to highlight the 2.40 that's available if you think Koza Mostra will finish higher than Georgia's Sophie & Nodi.
Those are just a few of the options available to you if you feel like
having a little flutter on tonight's proceedings, anyway. Whatever you
do and however much you decide to bet, have a great evening!