The following is a guest post from Patrick Flynn, an analyst at Smarkets. Smarkets is a betting exchange (also known as a prediction market), where odds move based on customers’ betting and trading activity, rather than being opaquely set by a bookmaker trying to maximise profits. You can visit the Smarkets Eurovision 2021 betting page here. The opinions expressed below are those of the author.
Eurovision 2021: Smarkets betting analyst on Semi-Final 1 qualification
So here we are! After nearly two years, Eurovision season is finally upon us once more, and so too are the Eurovision betting markets. At Smarkets, we’re proud to say that this year we have a bigger Eurovision offering than ever before, and I am delighted to be previewing the semi-finals for Wiwibloggs using our data (with a healthy dose of my own opinions for added measure).
I’ve been predicting Eurovision (or trying to, at least) in some form or another for almost 10 years now, and I have to say that the first semi-final this year is among the hardest I’ve encountered. Not only is it a strong one, but with very few actual live performances to go off due to the coronavirus pandemic, there are many unpredictable factors at play. That being said, let’s kick this pre-rehearsal preview off with the first entry, Lithuania…
Semi-final win chance: 7% / Qualification chance: 87% / Final win chance: 5%
Lithuania’s “Discoteque” is the third favourite to win this semi-final, a feat only achieved by a show opener once in Eurovision semi-final history (answers in the comments). Lithuania shouldn’t have too many issues qualifying this year, especially as they have a very likely 12 points in the televote bag from both Ireland and Norway. I suspect The Roop will fare pretty well with the public, but I think this entry could potentially struggle with the jury, and I don’t personally see it as a Eurovision winner. Sorry guys.
Semi-final win chance: 2% / Qualification chance: 21% / Final win chance: 0.1%
Slovenia ranks towards the bottom of the list of likely qualifiers on our market, which is a shame as this isn’t a bad song. Unfortunately for Ana Soklič, she’s been given the dreaded second-place slot in the running order which is likely to bury this entry. I suspect “Amen” will need a pretty hefty jury haul to qualify, and while I don’t think that’s completely out of the question, it remains unlikely, as the odds indicate.
Semi-final win chance: 2% / Qualification chance: 76% / Final win chance: 1%
While the prediction markets have Russia among the 10 most likely qualifiers, I think their qualification chances are somewhat overestimated. Russia probably has enough allies in the semi-final to be in the televote top 10 (despite a relatively weak song by their standards), and while Manizha’s entry deserves points for originality, I personally can’t see the juries warming to this. Russia has a great qualification record, yes, but failing to qualify is not out of the question (as we saw in 2018), with the new voting system introduced in 2016 placing greater importance on doing well with both the televote and the jury. I think the expulsion of Belarus from this semi-final was a big blow for Manizha, meaning she will lose out on a good 15+ points from Russia’s close neighbour. While I can absolutely see a scenario in which this qualifies, if I had to pick one way or the other right now, I’d say “Russian Woman” will miss out on a final spot.
Semi-final win chance: 18% / Qualification chance: 89% / Final win chance: 5%
Tusse is the second-favourite to win this semi-final, and I don’t have that much to add. “Voices” is a great song heightened by its live performance, and is a typically polished entry from Sweden, which should score very highly with the juries. These odds look broadly correct to me.
Semi-final win chance: 2% / Qualification chance: 32% / Final win chance: 0.2%
Australia is a very difficult one to predict, given that Montaigne won’t be able to travel to Rotterdam to perform, so Australia will be relying on their pre-recorded “live on tape” performance. Montaigne’s qualification chances will depend on a good stage show, for which I think the song has a lot of potential. With the live on tape recording, however, it remains to be seen how much time and effort will have been spent on recreating whatever the Australian delegation had planned for Rotterdam, so I do have some doubts about the staging potential here. On the flip side, the absence of in-person staging may help the entry stand out, and its contemporary, hyperpop-infused sound may endear it to the juries despite Australia’s lack of televote allies. At the moment, I see this as borderline, but marginally more likely to miss out.
Semi-final win chance: 2% / Qualification chance: 19% / Final win chance: 0.1%
At this stage North Macedonia doesn’t look like a likely qualifier, but with Vasil likely to receive at least some televote points from Slovenia and Croatia, it’s possible “Here I Stand” receives enough points from the jury to sneak through. A 20% chance of qualification seems like a decent outside bet if Vasil gives a good vocal performance on the night.
Semi-final win chance: 2% / Qualification chance: 30% / Final win chance: 0.3%
Ireland only ranks above North Macedonia and Slovenia in our “to qualify” market. This isn’t a bad entry at all, but unfortunately for Lesley Roy, this is a strong semi-final and I suspect the entry may get lost in the crowd. A 30% chance of qualification seems about right.
Semi-final win chance: 4% / Qualification chance: 84% / Final win chance: 2%
Cyprus have completed their trilogy of Mediterranean summer bops this year with “El Diablo”, and while this doesn’t quite compare to the heat of “Fuego”, it’s still pretty spicy and shouldn’t struggle to qualify. Elena Tsagrinou has shown some solid vocals in live performances, so the song should have cross appeal for both the televote and jury. I can certainly see a top-five finish for Cyprus in this semi-final.
Semi-final win chance: 3% / Qualification chance: 74% / Final win chance: 3%
I have to admit, I’ve done a total 180 with this song, going from “how did this beat Keiino?!” to “I unironically really like this” in less than a month. In my time predicting Eurovision, I’ve occasionally been let down by failing to properly consider entries that might be popular with kids (I’m thinking Norway 2018, Denmark 2018 and Austria 2016), and I think “Fallen Angel” fits that mould. The staging gives the entry a novelty factor which will help it stand out in a strong semi-final, but it’s also a very catchy pop song (if a tiny bit dated). I don’t expect this to finish too highly on the juries’ leaderboard, but I think Tix has the potential to shock with how well he does with the televote.
Semi-final win chance: 2% / Qualification chance: 69% / Final win chance: 1%
Croatia occupies the 10th spot in our qualification market, but with five solo women-led pop songs in the final nine slots of this semi-final, I just can’t see them all qualifying. I think this a good song, but may be the most likely candidate of the five to miss out. This could be a decent bet to not qualify.
Semi-final win chance: 2% / Qualification chance: 54% / Final win chance: 1%
I may be a little biased as this song is one of my favourites this year, but I’d argue “The Wrong Place” is the most underrated entry of the night, if not the entire contest. It’s a well-written, radio-friendly track which should be catnip for the juries, and I think Hooverphonic are as strong a contender as any to top the jury vote in the first semi-final. With some good staging, I think Belgium has the potential to do very well indeed. Needless to say, backing them to qualify at just over 50% seems like a steal to me. Alternatively, you can trade at 11% for Hooverphonic to top the jury vote in the first semi-final, or if you fancy them to win the whole contest (or even if you think it’s worth going in now to trade out later), “The Wrong Place” is available to back at just 1% on Smarkets.
Semi-final win chance: 2% / Qualification chance: 54% / Final win chance: 1%
Occupying 11th place in the semi-final odds, Israel may be battling Croatia for that final qualification spot. While I’m not massively confident in “Set Me Free” being among the televote top 10, I think its contemporary, radio-friendly sound (highly reminiscent of Dua Lipa’s “Levitating”) should be received pretty well by the juries and potentially see it through.
Semi-final win chance: 5% / Qualification chance: 74% / Final win chance: 2%
Romania’s chances of qualification have increased over the last few days after a strong performance from Roxen in the “Concert in the Dark” earlier this week laid to bed any potential concerns about her vocal capacity. I think this is likely to qualify; it’s a polished song and stands out as a change of pace among the final five entries.
Semi-final win chance: 3% / Qualification chance: 74% / Final win chance: 1%
Azerbaijan places 7th in our market, which seems about right. “Mata Hari” is probably going to compete with “El Diablo” for the same kinds of votes, though I’d hazard a guess that the latter will come out on top. Efendi has a good shot at doing well in the televote, but to me this seems like the type of song that juries may not warm to.
Semi-final win chance: 2% / Qualification chance: 68% / Final win chance: 1%
Ukraine is probably the most difficult entry of all to predict in this semi-final. Personally, I really like “Shum”, but I have no qualms that it will likely divide opinion. But here’s the thing with Eurovision: you vote for your favourite songs. If you don’t like an entry, you’d have to vote for every other country in order to register your displeasure on the same scale. With this in mind, it’s easy to see why “Marmite” entries can often do well with the televote (case in point being Iceland’s Hatari in 2019, which topped the televote in the first semi-final, despite finishing eighth with the jury). With a good stage show, this has the potential to take the roof off the Ahoy on semi-final night. Given Ukraine’s perfect qualification record and a plum spot in the running order, 68% appears a little low for Go_A’s qualification prospects.
Semi-final win chance: 45% / Qualification chance: 94% / Final win chance: 19%
Closing the show is Malta, the favourite to win this semi-final and deservedly so in my view. “Je me casse” should score highly with the televote and jury alike with its contemporary sound and Destiny’s powerhouse vocals. Though I agree with the market that “Je me casse” is the most likely semi-final winner, I personally wouldn’t touch it at 45%.
Do you agree with me and/or the markets? Who do you think is likely to win or advance to the final? Sound off in the comments below or let me know your thoughts on Twitter – @patricksmarkets.