According to the bookies, Eurovision 2014 will be a battle between Armenia and Sweden. But, as we all know, the bookies are not always right. Just look at Sweden (2008), UK (2011), Hungary (2011), France (2011), Denmark (2012), and Germany (2013). For the past few years, Eurovision has been fairly predictable, and we no longer have the thrilling, close results like in 1988, 1993, 1998, and 2002. For a year with no Loreen or Alexander Rybak, it may be important to look at a few dark horses in this year’s contest. Note that these five dubbed “Dark Horses of ESC 2014” are not in the top ten of any betting agencies.

1. Spain – “Dancing in the Rain” by Ruth Lorenzo

The bookies gave up on Spain after 2012, when vocal powerhouse, Pastora Soler, finished tenth with a flawless, pitch-perfect performance of “Quédate Conmigo.” Two years later, Ruth Lorenzo is working tirelessly to win the competition. Like Pastora, Ruth is a powerhouse vocalist with the sheer gusto of belting notes with unwavering confidence. However, there are differences between the two divas. From hair whipping back and forth to the growl in her voice at the climax of “Dancing in the Rain,” Ruth is by far an edgier performer who is embraces risk (and apparently controversy). Pastora is an old-fashion, class act; for that, she was awarded greatly by the juries but panned by voters for being boring, to quite honest. An edgy, risk-taking Ruth is able to woo both juries and voters with the right package of voice, performance, and charisma.

2. Austria – “Rise Like a Phoenix” by Conchita Wurst

While fans worry about bias against LGBT contestants in Eurovision, there have been recent ESC winners who represent the LGBT community: Loreen (2012), Marija Šerifovi? (2007), and Dana International (1997). There was initial skepticism that Conchita was a novelty Verka Serduchka-esque act. With the bar set very low, Conchita exceeded expectations with a solid, classy song with enviable vocals, which will be viewed very favorably by the juries. Ever since Conchita’s first live performance, Conchita has been such a galvanizing force, rallying new supporters left and right. Ever since Russia’s anti-LGBT laws went into effect in 2013, Europe is responding. A Conchita win will send a message that Western Europe and its ideals are taking Eurovision back.

3. Israel – “Same Heart” by Mei Finegold

For three consecutive years, Israel failed to qualify for the final. To end this miserable dry spell, Israel is sending Mei Feingold, her smoky voice, and her grungy, dance song to Copenhagen. And while we have songs about breakups and failed relationships, “Same Heart” distinguishes itself from the pack by its attitude-filled delivery and grungy lyrics like “I’m skinning you up.” Mix Beyoncé’s attitude with a Kelly Clarkson rock song and Avicii’s production, and you have Mei Feingold. While she’s not a bookie’s favorite, Eurovision fans are reacting well. And, she may end up bringing the contest back to the Promise Land.

4. Ireland – “Heartbeat” by Can-Linn feat. Kasey Smith

Ever since 1996, Ireland stopped giving fans iconic Eurovision classics like “What’s Another Year,” “Hold Me Now,” or “Rock N’Roll Kids.” After 17 years of forgettable entries, “Heartbeat” gives Ireland its best shot at a potential eighth win. The song initially did not leave a good first impression, mostly due to the poor acoustics of RTÉ’s studios. However, after listening to the studio version, it all made sense, and now I’m a fan. The unique blending of traditional Irish instruments, bombastic drums, and synthesizers may be winning formula, especially when you consider that all the frontrunners have been criticized for being safe, predictable, and unoriginal.

5. FYR Macedonia – “To the Sky” by Tijana

For several months, no one knew what to think of Tijana’s lip-synced performance at what looked like the Macedonian version of “Dancing with the Stars.” All skepticism was put to rest at Eurovision in Concert, where the 38-year-old artist surprisingly brought down the house with her charisma, voice, and pair of white, hipster glasses. Out of all 37 songs, “To the Sky,” has the best shot of becoming a summer hit across Europe with its catchy melody and strong, crisp production. If “To the Sky” does not win, Macedonia will most likely receive its best placing ever, even without the aid of its Balkan neighbors who withdrew from this year’s contest.

The first semi-final is TOMORROW, and the halls of B&W Hallerne are filled with uncertainty of who will win and host next year’s contest. We could very well be in Yerevan, Stockholm, London, or even Skopje in 2015…

You can read all of our lists by clicking here

For more from the ESCritic click here. And follow the team from WiwiBloggs.com on Twitter @wiwibloggs.

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R24
Guest
R24

Dana International was in 1998

v.gerrard
Guest
v.gerrard

Ukraine to win…because the song is a great catchy Eurovision song & not because they’ll get sympathy vote.

Go on ya’ good thing, Mariya.

PS. Who are these critics that pick these tips…they know N.O.T.H.I.N.G.

Emma
Guest
Emma

Finland is my dark horse.

Aidan
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Aidan

I have loved Tijana since the start, everything about her is amazing. I know who I’ll be voting for on Thursday. She’s My Number One!

Anne
Guest

Vote the Netherlands, dare to be different, dare to vote for the song!

CookyMonzta
Guest
CookyMonzta

My dark horse here is Italy. I have not seen the rehearsals (I’d rather see the finished product and grade that); but from what I have read in the past, Emma’s performances in the past were almost as frantic as the song itself. If she doesn’t go way off the rails, and puts the best effort possible in selling the song, along with the performance, I expect her to hold the line and, at worst, place as high (if not higher) as last year’s Italian entry. I have Emma for 5th overall. The big surprise would be Macedonia, if the… Read more »

Alex
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Alex

Spain, The Netherlands and Austria are dark horses. The rest aren’t. Especially FYR MAcedonia and Ireland which will flop.

EUROFAN MEXICO
Guest

NO MORE COLD GO BARCELONA 2015 IMAGINE IT

Steve
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Steve

Ireland is fantastic and love Spain too like Austria also but other to don’t stand out for me.

Liran
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Liran

Totally ISRAEL !! 🙂
Happy 66 Birthday 🙂

Jak
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Jak

Is Loreen gay or just an activist?

Miksi
Guest

What about Moldova? Although it isn’t one of favs in general it def stands out.It is unique,and the singer has perfect voice.And just look at the comments under the rehearsal video 🙂

Dani
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Dani

I’d love this year’s voting to be a tight race between non-scandinavian, non-former USSR, and non-balkan countries FOR ONCE! 😉

Deven O'Kearney
Guest

Hi Bavarson

What makes you think that Austria won’t qualify?

Maybezz
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Maybezz

MADRID OR BARCELONA 2015?

Clara
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Clara

im sure we will have a big flop this year,as we had it on last contest with San Marino..I also think that there’s going to be someone who will surprise us qualifying into the final.. What i think is that Greece will hardly reach the final bc it’s just a fan song,and nothing else..Eurovision is watched also by other targets not only by youths that have got the nerves to listen to them.. As for the surprise I think it MAYBE Albania,because her voice is pretty good to be liked by the jury and i actually think that the jury… Read more »

Oostenrijk
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Oostenrijk

I don’t agree on Ireland and Macedonia – these are big flops

Dan RO
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Dan RO

Macedonia, really??? I doubt Tijana will make the final, based on how she performs in the rehearsals. And even if she improves dramatically (which I doubt), her song is not nearly enough to make the top 15…

Rino
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Rino

Spain win the eurovision for sure

Alex Rednig
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Alex Rednig

Totally agree with Austria, Spain, Israel and Ireland – but Macedonia?? Sorry, not a dark horse in my book. She is annoying as hell and also her live singing is excruciating. Swap Macedonia with Italy or Germany, and then you’ve got the dark horses of this year’s competition in my opinion.

vangelis vt
Guest
vangelis vt

I think we all agree that FYRoM will not even qualify to the final. Becoming a summer hit in Europe seems even more farfetched 🙂 I think there are only two dark horses in this year’s contest: Belgium and Greece. Not in terms of them winning, but certainly doing much, much better than their current odds. I can see Europe relating to a song about mothers (and finding Russia’s twins “cute” as well). In an ocean of ballads, I can also see Greece once again benefiting from massive televoting. As for Austria: I can see a lot of people in… Read more »

Armenian guy
Guest
Armenian guy

@Armenian (Azerbaijani) star dude what’s wrong with you .You keep spamming all articles under Armenian names.At least chose you REAL Azeri name .

@Wiwibloggs it’s already 3rd time I ask you to block this Azeri trolls IP addresses ..Is it so hard or what ? Or do you enjoy this ?

Adi
Guest
Adi

Well Israel is now EXACTLY at number 10, since the rehearsals began Mei is either at 9 or 10 but definitely at the top!

Hjosd
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Hjosd

Poland is dark horse! people from danish tv saying that they want Poland to win.

Thiefo
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Thiefo

I agree on Spain, Israel and specially Austria, I like the three of them but I think Conchita might surprise us in the final, maybe not win, but definitely a top 10 placing. Ireland might do good as well, I really don’t like it, but there seems to be so much hype around it, it has momentum so it wouldn’t surprise me if it does better than the bookies are predicting. The only one I doubt about is Macedonia, I’m not completely sure why it was mentioned here to be honest, the song is just so-so and from what we… Read more »

Leon
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Leon

I think Spain, Austria and Israel deserve to be in the top 10. But realistically speaking, Austria will either get a top 3 or finish in the bottom 3. Israel will score most likely in the top 10 range and so will Spain. Macedonia will probably make it to the top 15

Ian Charlton
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Ian Charlton

Spain, Italy and The Netherlands are all very good songs – and could cause a boilover. Spain is my favorite and I will have it at position one or two.

This is my opinion
Guest
This is my opinion

please don’t vote for Macedonia let that women stay in semifinal with a block, a man inside her, she moves like man doesn’t she, oh well when she goes home her family would say our singer he didn’t do well did she, nope she didn’t do well at all he she she he whatever

This is my opinion
Guest
This is my opinion

how I can’t stand that Macedonian foolish representative with her cheap song through her nose, she is not singing either she is moaning like she said she hates ballads, imagine if we had all entries like her cheap pop song where will eurovision go without quality, what she doesn’t realise is that this is actually a song contest with variety of tastes, and not euro pop song contest, would she still say she hates ballads! I wouldn’t be surprise, she is extremely foolish indeed

daniel
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daniel

Israel will surprize everybody and win this year!

Eugene UK
Guest
Eugene UK

I would also include Poland and Germany, but I don’t think they will finish in the Top 5 or 10 for that matter.

For me the only “Dark Horse” is AUSTRIA but I would be very surprised if Conchita ends up in the Top 5 really.

This is my view :-

SPAIN – 7th to 11th
AUSTRIA – 5th to 9th
ISRAEL – 10th to 14th
IRELAND – 17th to 19th
MACEDONIA – 29th to 33rd

Dani Madrid
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Dani Madrid

@Nebi UK, Hungary and Ukraine are off the list because they are top 10 in the betting agencies, so they talk about entries rated 11th and under

bavarson
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bavarson

“Euphoria” looked poorly on rehearsals, but great in TV. Tijana with “To The Sky” is in a very similar situation.

Dani Madrid
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Dani Madrid

I think our Ruthie could be a black horse, but if I have to chose THE white horse, that is Austria.

btw, am I the only one who thinks Hungary and Romania are very overrated, and Germany extremely underrated?

Cathal
Guest

Israel will flop like San Marino lady year, it’s just a fan song and Europe will not buy it.

Med
Guest
Med

@Dhani – an interesting thought about putting the = sing between Belgium 2013 and Macedonia this year. I haven’t even saw that coming. They both have decent pop songs and they both have some weird choreography. 🙂 The lack of on screen harisma of Tijana is what differentiates them both, but we will see. Anyhow, interesting comparison.

Frank75
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Frank75

In moment the best is Spain , best voice , best perform , and best song , she have really big personality and profesionality , and is a beatiful girl , what more want Europ ??? vote for Spain this time , deserve it 100%

Dhani
Guest

i think Macedonia will be a dark horse for sure, like belgium was last year and get the same place like belgium.

i Think Spain will flop totally and score around 20th place.

My heart is really with Poland and San Marino this year. i Hope they qualify, they really deserve it!!!

Nebi
Guest
Nebi

I think that this year is the most wide open contest for years. I simply don’t believe Armenia is a genuine front runner. It is a terrible song carried only by interesting tracking. Why is UK, Hungary, Ukraine left off the list? They are certainly more likely dark horses than Macedonia or Austria. Let’s face it those who are in love with Austria are for the same reason as those who are repulsed. Neither is driven by the song which could only be a front runner if it were entered in 1965 instead 2014.

Nitzan
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Nitzan

I would consider Belgium and the Netherlands.

Just being honest
Guest
Just being honest

Dark horse is definitely Albania. Just based on which act received the least attention from ESC fans before the contest, it wins hands down. All these acts on the list are getting lots of buzz. Their sudden success in 2012 could be repeated again this year.

Julian
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Julian

Last odds Israel and Austria were in top 10 http://wiwibloggs.com/2014/05/04/eurovision-odds-armenia-still-top-uk-ukraine-rising/49241/
Just outside top 10 is Spain. And so is Romania, can’t see why Romania is not a dark horse.
Ireland gave some awful live performances hence the bookmakers put them out of top 20. Sorry to tell but Ireland will probably struggle to qualify in final. And all that Irish dance and fiddle can’t fix that.
Macedonia may be a dark horse but equally so can be Netherlands, Italy, France, Montenegro, Poland, Russia, Belgium, Belarus.

Camilly
Guest
Camilly

I think Poland may be a dark horse.

Denialil
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Denialil

“Out of all 37 songs, “To the Sky,” has the best shot of becoming a summer hit across Europe.”

Seriously, who writes this!??!?! laughable

bavarson
Guest
bavarson

You all should shut up, because your comments have no value. You don’t know absolutely nothing about eurovision.

Armond
Guest
Armond

I already see Spain, Israel & Austria in the top 10. (Well they’re actually in my top 5 alongside Armenia & Sweden)

Sam "Sopon"
Guest

Spain: Already qualified. Even though I personally don’t like the song, a lot of other people do. 11th-15th Austria: I’m sure Western Europe will not judge, and many voters will probably give affirmative action votes (not exactly the best thing), and others might be able to look past the beard and see how great the song and his/her voice are. It’s a bonus that Conchita is in the semi-final with more Westernized countries (Malta, Ireland, Finland, Norway, etc.). Israel: Every critic of this song uses that dreadful term “fan****”, and it’s true that it is a high scorer among us… Read more »

D
Guest
D

Slovenia is my dark horse.

bavarson
Guest
bavarson

Spain – weak static performance
Austria – weak static performance
Israel – too much force
Ireland – have chance for top 10
Macedonia – elegant and dynamic performance but not for top 10

Fatima
Guest
Fatima

Before bavarson’s next pronouncement, I’d like to say that it would be fantastic even if Austria can simply get to the final. For viewers east of Szczecin to see that act on Saturday would be a victory, even if she places 26th.