The eyes of Europe will be on Lisbon this Saturday, as for the first time in the competition’s 63-year history, the Eurovision Song Contest will be held in Portugal.
Salvador Sobral’s (pictured, above) victory in Kiev last year was the first for the Portuguese and means the musical showpiece will be held in the Altice Arena – with semi-finals on Tuesday and Thursday, before the final on Saturday.
A record-equalling 43 countries will take part in the contest this year, matching the tallies of the 2008 and 2011 editions, and with an estimated 600 million viewers worldwide, there’s huge interest in what is always one of the biggest events of the year.
Our betting expert has taken a look at who could be the contenders, and who may end up with ‘nil points’.
Competition looks wide open
As with all the best Eurovisions, experts are split on who will go on to win this time around.
At the time of writing, Cyprus are 9/4 favourites with Grosvenorsport.com, with Eleni Foureira’s ‘Fuego’ catching fire with pundits after a strong showing in the pre-semi final rehearsals.
While the songs have all been known for a while, the rehearsals are the first chance to see the choreography and effects – and the fire and big stage production of ‘Fuego’ has seen the Cypriot entry heavily backed.
However, with both semi-finals to go, I’d be wary of backing anything at that price – especially given the likelihood of a few shocks being thrown up along the way.
Israel’s Netta has led the betting for a while, and her 7/2 ‘Toy’ should feature heavily on Saturday night.
A former winner, and long-established Eurovision favourite, Alexander Rybak from Norway should also be considered.
Rybak won the contest in 2009, and appeared in the 2012 and 2016 intervals – and the singer/violinist will represent Norway once more with ‘That’s How You Write a Song’.
He is 13/2 this time around.
Speaking the right language
When trying to pick a Eurovision winner, often the thing to look out for most of all is the language of the winning song.
Only two winners since 2000 have not been in English – though last year was one of those occasions, with Sobral singing in Portguese.
Instead, I think we might see an EDM-inspired number from Sweden’s Benjamin Ingrosso surprise a few.
The Swedes have won two of the last five Eurovisions, and like Loreen’s ‘Eurphoria’ in 2012, Ingrosso’s ‘Dance You Off’ has definite Europop potential that could get viewers across the continent up on their feet.
At 25/1, I certainly think it could be worth a punt.
Don’t count out Russia
Eurovision is almost as well known for it’s politics as it is for its music, with countries usually doling out their ‘douze points’ to their nearest and dearest.
After missing out on last year’s contest, Russia are back – and usually score well amongst their various bordering neighbours.
Despite being booed for their anti-LGBT policies at the 2015 edition, Russia finished second, and they could feature highly based on support from allies alone.
Yulia Samoylova’s ‘I Won’t Break’ is solid, if not spectacular, but could see Russia in the mix at the top of the table.
It’s certainly worth taking a punt on a Russian top-five finish at 14/1.