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Eurovision preview

It's Eurovision time, when normally sane people go a tad crazy watching a plethora of cheesy performances backed up by political voting pacts and soemtimes witty banter from Graham Norton (he's not Terry Wogan by a long stretch....).

Eurovision tragic Andrew Hawkins @AndrewNJHawkins has done the form intensively and produced this gem of work.

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Eurovision

Ah, Eurovision. That annual wacky celebration of kitsch is upon us again.

As a straight Eurovision fan - yes, they do exist - I've spent weeks and months listening to the songs and trying to frame a book.

This year has been fascinating as the markets have fluctuated wildly. And anyone who believes they have found the winner cannot be entirely sure. I think we have a close vote on our hands.

I drew up a top 10 before the week started, which looked something like this:

1. Sweden
2. United Kingdom
3. Spain
4. Austria
5. Norway
6. The Netherlands
7. Hungary
8. Denmark
9. Armenia
10. Israel (already eliminated)

So all along, I've been wanting to take on the early favourite Armenia, who was as short as evens last week. He is now out to 9/1 and drifting, but I still think something can be made out of opposing him. More on that later.

Sweden is a deserved favourite, although she may still be eclipsed by Austria's bearded drag queen Conchita Wurst. I still remember hearing Sanna Nielsen sing Undo for the first time in a Melodifestivalen heat, and you knew right away it was going to be a contender for the title. She is in a very awkward position in the running order, though.

Unfortunately, much of the value is gone in straight-out betting, as you'd expect. You could have got as much as 250/1 about the Netherlands last week - I know because I almost took it. But one further look at their dark and dull music video turned me off with the thought it wasn't "Eurovisiony" enough. Of course, they are now as short as 3/1 after a terrific performance in the first semi-final.

If you do want to bet straight out, you would only be backing those countries that automatically qualified and so have not been seen officially. Of those six countries, the United Kingdom (10/1), Denmark (33/1) and Spain (66/1) have drawn the best.

Many Brits are still gun shy, believing there is an anti-UK bias at Eurovision. If they look at some of the acts sent recently, and then at Molly Smitten-Downs, they'd realise they have a real shot this year. Her song is strong, it's anthemic, and it's drawn well as the final song of the night. At 10/1, she's well worth a flutter.

Denmark is a Bruno Mars clone that is catchy, but you wouldn't think they would be overly keen about winning back-to-back. Still, it will attract the young vote.

And Spain, represented by a soaring bilingual ballad from former X Factor contestant Ruth Lorenzo, looks the best value still left. She's drawn the plum position of 19th to perform, and she's surrounded by unmemorable songs with no hope - Slovenia and Finland precede, while Switzerland is straight afterwards. 66/1 is ridiculous.

You can also get 7/1 about her to finish top four and 5/2 about her finishing top 10. Perhaps they are smarter bets, particularly the 5/2 about finishing in the top 10. That looks a gift.

Indeed, it is the specials where the value lies now. It's just about identifying it.

It looks a very close contest this year, much more open than in recent years where there has been an odds-on favourite. The 9/4 about the winning margin being 20 points or less may well be worth a throw at the stumps.

As always, the Origin of Winner market throws up overs. 9/1 is freely available about the winner being pre-qualified - a package which includes all three countries above, as well as longshots Italy (150/1), France (250/1) and Germany (250/1).

Sky Bet is offering dual forecast odds for those that think they can get the quinella. I still think the big value lies with the United Kingdom, so I'd probably back three with the UK - Sweden/UK (12/1), Austria/UK (16/1) and Netherlands/UK (16/1).

Ladbrokes is offering head to head markets, and I think someone had forgotten to update them earlier today. They had Austria at 11/10 against the Netherlands at 4/6, despite the fact Austria was at 5/2 in the overall winner market against the Netherlands at 4/1. Perhaps worth something if it is still there, although I must admit I'm a bit hesitant about taking on the Dutch...

Again, the anti-UK sentiment is mindboggling. Ladbrokes have the United Kingdom at 7/4 against Ukraine at 2/5. Ukraine has to sing first, and besides the song is not outstanding - it's alright, but not brilliant. It's unlikely to stick in people's minds and is a real risk. The only thing that could get Ukraine near the United Kingdom are sympathy votes due to their current political woes. Otherwise, that 7/4 is the best value of the night.

If anyone is able to find head to head markets with Armenia, I'd be taking them on for sure.

One at odds that I could entertain in the top 10 market is Montenegro (6/1), which is a good song but which is likely to get lost in its early position.

At the other end of the spectrum, who will finish last? Germany had major problems with their jury final performance, including getting caught up in streamers. It was a song that needed jury points if it was going to score at all, as it doesn't seem the type of song that will get much love from televoters. At 5/1, happy to be on Germany.

So, it looks like I'm relying on a good night for the United Kingdom. Otherwise, it could be a long, long night!

My predicted finishing order:

1. United Kingdom
2. The Netherlands
3. Austria
4. Sweden
5. Spain
6. Hungary
7. Denmark
8. Greece
9. Armenia
10. Montenegro

Summary

Winner: United Kingdom (10/1), Denmark (33/1), Spain (66/1)
Top 4: Spain (7/1)
Top 10: Spain (5/2), Montenegro (6/1)
Winning Margin: 20 points or less (9/4)
Origin of Winner: Pre-qualified (9/1)
Dual Forecast: Sweden/United Kingdom (12/1), Austria/United Kingdom (16/1), Netherlands/United Kingdom (16/1)
Head to Head: Austria, v Netherlands (11/10); United Kingdom, v Ukraine (7/4)
Last Place: Germany (5/1)


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